Scottish Fishermen Sail to Denmark as Brexit Jams EU Exports

Scottish fishermen are willing to sail an extra 48 hours to Denmark, where their catch can fetch twice as much after prices at home collapsed in the aftermath of Brexit.

A boat loaded with 15 tons of monkfish arriving on Thursday night was expected to net its Scottish captain 225,000 kroner ($36,700) more than it would in Peterhead, Britain’s biggest fishing port, said Jesper Kongsted, a fish auctioneer in Hanstholm on Denmark’s North Sea coast.

Purchasers in the U.K. are turning away from more expensive varieties of fish because red tape and queues can mean its not fresh when it reaches European customers. Seafood From Scotland said prices for many species of seafood have fallen 40% to 50% just this week, with some dropping as much as 80%.

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

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,” Donna Fordyce, the chief executive at Seafood From Scotland, said in a statement.

With about a third of Scottish vessels moored and others redirecting to Denmark, many fishermen are on dry land and the processing industry, which employs 10,000, is suffering.

Feeling Cheated

In a letter, The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations accused the British premier Boris Johnson of sacrificing the industry and being dishonest about which rights fishermen had obtained in the trade deal between the U.K. and EU.

“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, according to Business Matters.

James Withers, chief executive officer of industry group Scotland Food & Drink, estimates seafood merchants are currently losing 1 million pounds ($1.4 million) of exports a day because of the customs chaos.

The U.K. landed almost 1 billion pounds of fish in 2019, much of it in Scotland.

“No party can fix this issue overnight, but losses for the sector are mounting, and the situation is urgent,” Fordyce said. “We have days to fix it -- not weeks.”

The U.K. government has pledged a 100 million-pound package to help rebuild the country’s fishing fleet and the industry’s aging infrastructure.

As the Brexit deal was struck on Christmas Eve, a lack of business preparedness may cause temporary disruptions in the first quarter, Bloomberg Intelligence Senior U.K. Economist Dan Hanson said.

Back in Denmark, Kongsted reckons boats unloading in the Nordic country are rushing to solve an immediate issue and that the number of arriving trawlers might eventually dwindle as solutions are found in the U.K.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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