Boris Johnson ‘sacrificed fishing industry’ says June Mummery
Despite landing record hauls, many are struggling to survive because the price of fish has plummeted by a third. They say that firms in France, Spain and Italy are refusing to pay top whack because Brexit red tape means the fish aren’t as fresh.
This has caused one fisherman to reveal that the value of their catch tumbled from an expected £26,000 to just £16,000 last week.
Fisherman Luke Selvey recently returned to Brixham harbour in Devon aboard beam trawler Emilia Jayne.
Mr Selvey said: “We’ve got cuttlefish, Dover sole, brill, turbot, monks … all sorts.
“The fishing is the best we’ve seen for years.
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“The problem we’ve got is that the price of the fish is terrible. It’s making things really, really difficult for us. We’re having to work much harder to try to make a buck.”
Speaking to the Guardian, he added: “It means we’re going out in all conditions for maybe half the wages we were making last year.
“But we have families to look after, mortgages to pay, boats to be paid for.
“I shouldn’t be out there in southerly gales but my family needs to be fed, watered and clothed.
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“The fleet as a whole has caught more fish this year but the money is probably down by a third. It’s depressing.”
Almost three-quarters of the fish landed at the historic Devon port are exported to mainland Europe.
This was seamless for years until EU bureaucrats caused consignments being delayed or rejected.
Emilia Jayne’s owner Mike Sharp said: “This boat made £16,000 last week. For the amount of fish it had caught it should have been £25,000 or £26,000.”
The main catch at this time of year is cuttlefish, the vast majority of which ends up in mainland Europe.
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Usually it would fetch about £4.50 a kg but this year the price has been as low as £1.80.
Dover sole has dropped from about £15 to £7, and plaice from £3 to £1.10.
All in all, Mr Sharp believes his business is down a third from where he was this time last year.
He said: “Everyone is paddling around trying to make money.”
“This is the time of year you make your money. It’s always a bit leaner in April and May when the fish are breeding.
Many British fishermen are suffering despite landing record catches
“Now is when we need to make money to survive. Exporting is a nightmare. The Government has called it teething problems but it’s not that.
“It’s disheartening to be working the same hours or more, catching the same fish and getting a third of the return.”
Fish merchant Ian Perkes has described trying to export to the EU as “horrendous”.
He revealed his sales for January 2020 were £375,000. This January they were down to £74,000.
He said: “I’ve built this business up over 44 years. But we wonder now how long we can go on before pulling the plug.”
Mr Perkes reeled off examples of consignments being rejected or delayed.
British fishermen have been landing record catches
He heard that one trucker had to relabel thousands of boxes of frozen fish because they were marked as being from the UK rather than Great Britain.
A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the issues businesses involved in the export of highly perishable fresh and live seafood are facing, and as such are working closely with the fishing industry and authorities in EU member states to ensure that goods can continue to flow smoothly to market.
“We recently announced that the £23m fisheries support fund is being expanded to offer support to a wider range of businesses. We will be offering funding to help fishermen meet their fixed costs as businesses adjust to the new arrangements.”
The Government said it was holding weekly meetings with industry groups and working with Dutch, French and Irish officials to resolve issues with documentation.