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Dismay from South West fishing communities

  • by JW

“It is absolutely true that some British fishermen have faced barriers at the present time owing to complications over form-filling…”


Every evening this month, Rick Stein takes us into Cornwall for some escapist television:

Rick takes us to the place where his passion for Cornwall began – his family home at Trevose Head on the north Cornish coast, where as a child he would go fishing with his father.

BBC Two – Rick Stein’s Cornwall


On Monday evening this week, we enjoyed some more escapism, taking us into Devon too:

In Brixham, scallop diver Frazer Pugh goes in search of precious bivalves.

Devon and Cornwall – On Demand – All 4


On the same evening, we looked at the future of fishing:

As Brexit brings new hope, can a new generation of fishermen save their traditional way of life?

BBC Two – Cornwall: This Fishing Life


There had been fears just before Brexit:

An uncertain future for Devon’s fishing industry – Vision Group for Sidmouth


And after the deal, there was considerable dismay:

“There’s a lot of disappointment in our fishing communities at the moment.”

Why is the South West fishing industry unhappy with the Brexit deal? | News – Greatest Hits Radio (Devon)


One of the biggest problems has been rotting seafood waiting for paperwork to be filled out:

British fishermen are required to fill out forms including a European Health Certificate, to prove their catch meets regulatory standards. It requires the signature of a vet approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs before export. Information must then be translated into every language for each country the consignment travels through and manually input to an EU computer system by a customs officer 24 hours before goods arrive.

Post-Brexit bureaucratic chaos leaves tons of British fish rotting in French ports | UK | News |


The main reason is that most fish caught in UK waters is sold to the Continent:

In 2019, the UK fishing industry exported more than 333,000 tonnes of fish to the EU. That accounted for nearly half of the total catch of the UK fishing fleet and roughly three quarters of total fish exports from the UK. Some parts of the industry – such as shellfish – are totally dependent on such exports.

Brexit trade deal: What does it mean for fishing? – BBC News


And most fish brought to shore in the West Country is exported:

Brixham-born Sean Irvine, 61, who has been fishing from the port since the early 1990s, said he was glad, at least, that there had been a deal but he is concerned about the new paperwork that will be needed to send fish to mainland Europe – as much as 80% of Irvine’s catch is exported. “We’ll be catching the same fish in the same water as the French but we’ll have to produce a mountain of paperwork for it. It seems to me what we have achieved is minuscule when you think of the upsets it has caused in families and communities. All that effort for so little.”

‘Boris is a kipper’: fury and frustration at Brexit fishing deal in Brixham | Brexit | The Guardian


This weekend, Devon fishers were in London:

‘Brexit carnage’: UK fishing sector protests extra red tape outside EU | Euronews

Devon crab lorry joins Brexit trading protest in London – updates – Devon Live

Brexit: Fishing firms hold London protest over disruption – BBC News


Exeter’s MP voiced concerns in parliament yesterday:

“When the Prime Minister told fishermen in the South West that they would not face new export barriers or unnecessary form-filling, and when he told Britain’s musicians and artists they would still be free to tour and work in the rest of the European Union after Brexit, neither of those statements were correct, were they Prime Minister?”

Mr Johnson responded: “It is absolutely true that some British fishermen have faced barriers at the present time owing to complications over form-filling…”

Mr Bradshaw was not the only Devon MP to quiz the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. Sir Gary Streeter, MP for South West Devon, urged the Government to invest more in infrastructure in every region of the UK. The Conservative MP included South West England in his appeal. Boris Johnson responded that the potential there, and elsewhere, is “enormous”.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw clashes with Boris Johnson over Brexit – Devon Live


And indeed some in government are blaming Covid:

COVID-19: Blame coronavirus not Brexit for fish export woes, says business secretary | Business News | Sky News


However, this dismay from the Westcountry has a long history:

For Jim Portus, who has represented Devon and Cornish fishing interests for 33 years, the Brexit trade deal offered a sobering lesson in broken promises. Chief executive of the South West Fish Producers Organisation, Portus added: “I’m at the end of my working life but he [Johnson] made promises directly to fishermen and I am very disappointed for them. We should be rebuilding our fleet, encouraging our youngsters. We should be planning for a resurgence instead of being sold down the river again.”

The fisherman’s verdict on Brexit: Boris Johnson sold us down the river – again | Fishing industry | The Guardian


Nevertheless, the UK government is promising investment:

£23 million to help struggling fishing industry due to Brexit red tape and Covid | News – Greatest Hits Radio (Devon)