Scots fishermen’s anger and fears for future as they flock to Denmark to sell fish in Brexit ‘chaos’


UP to 40% of fish being landed at an auction in Denmark this year is from Scotland – as boats sail to the EU to sell their catch because of Brexit.

Scots fishermen have lodged a protest with Boris Johnson saying they are forced to sail an extra 48 hours to Denmark, to sell their wares as a result of the country exiting the European Union.

The move confirmed by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation comes as prices in the UK have collapsed in the aftermath of Brexit.

They claim their catch can fetch twice as much in Denmark as in this country.

The SFF has confirmed that some are doing this as it is the “only way” to guaranteed their catch will make a fair price as many fishermen fear for their future.

It has lodged a protest with the Prime Minister over the ‘chaos’ with the industry estimated to be losing £1m a day.

There are calls to compensate Scottish seafood traders whose exports to the EU have been severely disrupted by the introduction of post-Brexit checks.

A lack of buyers has seen many species of Scottish seafood plummet in price by around 50 per cent this week.

 Scottish fishing chiefs “will hold Johnson’s feet to the fire” over compensation pledge

It is estimated that a third of fishing boats in Scotland are currently tied up at harbours and crewmen are forced to stay on land without pay.

And traders exporting fish like salmon, oysters and langoustines to the continent say their orders are being cancelled due to delays in getting their fresh catch to customers in the EU.

SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald yesterday wrote to the Prime Minister voicing the industry’s anger over the mounting financial losses faced by vessels on top of the “desperately poor” Brexit fisheries deal.

She said: “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.”

Jesper Kongsted, a fish auctioneer in Hanstholm on Denmark’s North Sea coast estimated that 30-40% of the 1,300 tonnes of fish sold at Hanstholm so far this year came from Scottish fishing boats.

He said there had been a dialogue with 10-15 new boats, “because their market has suddenly become completely different from what they knew before January 1”

“Many of them are ships with a cargo of 50 tons.

He said one Scots boat loaded with 15 tons of monkfish arriving on Thursday night was expected to net its skipper around £27,000 more than it would in Peterhead, according to Jesper Kongsted, a fish auctioneer in Hanstholm on Denmark’s North Sea coast.

“Boris Johnson probably forgot to explain what leaving the EU would mean for fishermen’s ability to sell to the European market,” Mr Kongsted said.

“From 1 to 4 January their market was very similar to ours, but from 5 January onwards prices have completely collapsed over there. When you have been fishing for 5-6-7 days and you are carrying a load of mixed fish, you look at what you can get for it in Peterhead and what can you get over in Hanstholm.

“They can currently earn more by sailing a whole load of fish to Hanstholm, and that means that there are some who have never been this way who are really considering doing so.

The Brexit agreement also allows for European boats to fish in UK waters for the next five years.

 Scots fishing chiefs in final plea to Johnson warning Brexit concessions will “never be regained”

Ms Macdonald said the Prime Minister and the government has “spun a line” about a 25% uplift in quota for the UK adding: “You know this is not true, and your deal does not deliver that”.

She added: “In your letter to me of July 6, you said: ‘We are simply not prepared to agree to an arrangement that is manifestly unbalanced and against the interests of the UK fishing industry’ Yet that is what has been agreed.

“You also said that ‘we are committed to ensuring there are annual negotiations for access to, and sharing of, fishing opportunities, based on the principle of zonal attachment’.

“Yet we find ourselves with an outcome where the EU fleet will continue to have full and unfettered access to UK waters until the middle of 2026, and should the UK want to change these arrangements at that point, the EU can impose a suite of punitive sanctions on the UK. No other coastal state in the world is in this position.”

She said of major concern is the outcome for many key whitefish species.

“Your deal actually leaves the Scottish industry in a worse position on more than half of the key stocks and now facing acute problems with North Sea cod and saithe in particular,” she said.

She said his deal combined with the “chaos” experienced since January 1 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 added: “Your deal has failed the industry in the short term, but there is scope to rights its wrongs, and your government needs to commit to doing everything that it can to achieve this. “The current situation however is such that many in the seafood supply chain fear they will not survive to see that opportunity materialise.”

It comes after SNP Commons leader Tommy Sheppard described reports of Scottish fish being left to rot due to bureaucracy as the “Brexit fishing disaster”, demanding that the fishing industry is compensated for the loss in trade.

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has said Boris Johnson surrendered to a ‘neo-colonial relationship’ with the EU on fish under the Brexit agreement that came into force on January 1 with products like langoustine taking five days to arrive on the continent rather than the usual 24 hours.

Seafood From Scotland, which represents the seafood industry said prices for many species of seafood have fallen 40% to 50% just this week, with some dropping as much as 80%.

“The impact of the Brexit transition on the Scottish seafood industry has been far-reaching, ranging from computer failures to a lack of clarity on paperwork, rendering efforts to export “all but impossible,” said Donna Fordyce, the chief executive at Seafood From Scotland.

“It is not that, in the end, you were forced to concede in the face of an intransigent and powerful opponent that has caused such fury across our industry, it is that you have tried to present the agreement as a major success when it is patently clear that it is not,” the federation’s letter said.

Fergus Ewing used a statement to Holyrood on Thursday to speak out about the problem the fishing fleet had faced as a result of Brexit.

He said they were landing their catch in Denmark to avoid the “bureaucratic system” that exports to Europe now involve.

Exports of fresh fish and seafood have been hit by delays after the UK’ transition period ended on December 31, with Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston saying this “uncertainty” had resulted in some boats opting to stay in port.


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