Describing the current situation as a ‘full-blown crisis,’ Scottish Seafood Association chief executive Jimmy Buchan has told the UK and Scottish governments to get a grip, and fast, ‘before severe and lasting damage is done.’
Two weeks into 2021 and with little sign of improvement, he commented that there has been a lot of direct engagement between the industry and ministers and civil servants in recent days, and plenty of soothing words about resolving ‘teething troubles.’
‘But these are not minor impediments to trade. The industry in Scotland has basically ground to a halt and businesses that employ hundreds of people in communities around our coastline are losing money. In some cases they are close to going under,’ he said.
In a letter to Boris Johnson that slams the ‘desperately poor deal on fisheries in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement,’ as being far from what the fishing industry had bene promised, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said that the industry now finds itself in the worst of both worlds.
‘Your deal leaves us with shares that not only fall very far short of zonal attachment, but in many cases fail to ‘bridge the gap’ compared to historic catches, and with no ability to leverage more fish from the EU, as they have full access to our waters. This, coupled with the chaos experienced since 1st January in getting fish to market means that many in our industry now fear for their future, rather than look forward to it with optimism and ambition,’ she stated in the SFF’s letter.
‘As the second week of 2021 draws to a close, and our industry is facing mounting financial losses. Many fishing vessels are tied to the quay wall. Of the others that can go to sea, some are now making a 72-hour round trip to land fish in Denmark, as the only way to guarantee that their catch will make a fair price and actually find its way to market while still fresh enough to meet customer demands.’
She stated that the current situation is such that many in the seafood supply chain fear they will not survive to see that opportunity materialise.
‘You committed to the Liaison Committee this week that fishing businesses affected by the delays in getting fish to market since 1st January will be compensated for their losses, so we expect to see the details of this compensation scheme as a matter of urgency, and of course this must be new money, and not taken from the £100 million that you have already announced for investment and innovation,’ Elspeth Macdonald stated in her letter to the Prime Minister.
‘There is huge disappointment and a great deal of anger about your failure to deliver on promises made repeatedly to this industry. For now, the priorities must be your government securing enough fish though the talks currently taking place with the EU and Norway for 2021 to, as a minimum, bridge the gap that your deal failed to, and acting immediately to stem the losses that are mounting up and compensate those businesses already affected.’