Scottish Boats Told to Land Fewer Fish Due to Brexit Delays

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Scottish trawlermen have been told to catch fewer fish after new Brexit red tape caused long delays exporting their catch to the European Union.

“We’re now advising the catching sector to ease up,” said Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association. Trucks carrying fish are facing four-hour waits to be cleared for onward transport and “we can’t guarantee we’ll get it into the marketplace,” he said.

The U.K.’s fishing sector -- which has been identified by the government as a major beneficiary of Brexit -- is one of the worst-hit by new bureaucracy. Forms such as catch certificates and health documents issued by a vet are required to sell to the EU, its biggest export market, and a shortage of vets to issue the forms is causing delays, Buchan said.

Transports Mesguen, a French trucking company that moves fish, had intended to send four trucks for export Tuesday, but had only managed to send two due to the customs hold-ups, he said.

“We’ve been ill-prepared,” Buchan said. “The government hasn’t listened to the warnings the industry has continually been giving.”

Britain’s free-trade deal with the EU saw it negotiate a 25% increase in the catch for U.K. boats in British waters over the next five years, followed by annual negotiations.

However, being outside the EU’s single market and customs union, fishermen face poorer market access and must follow rules such as sending their fish through designated border control posts.

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations said there are problems moving fish into the French ports of Calais and Boulogne, and the first consignment of the year from Cornwall had “hit a brick wall of bureaucracy.”

One consignment of fish was delayed for 48 hours and had spoiled, the NFFO said.

“Similar problems are being faced in relation to prawns exported from North Shields and with direct landings into Holland,” the NFFO said in a statement on its website. Buyers of fish are signaling that they have “no confidence in smooth export procedures and therefore will not take the risk of buying,” the group said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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