A group of Scottish fish and shellfish producers head to the US, with the aim of realising their global seafood ambition for Scotland. Photo: Scottish smoked salmon scottish seafood eu markets

A Seafood Scotland Briefing Paper put forward at a Scottish Parliament Committee reveals the continued importance of the EU markets. Photo: Scottish smoked salmon

In a briefing paper presented to the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs, and Culture Committee, Seafood Scotland underscores the critical importance of access to European Union (EU) markets for the Scottish seafood industry.

Highlighting the industry’s significant contribution to Scotland’s economy, Seafood Scotland reports that the export value of the Scottish seafood sector reached £1.041 billion in 2022. With over 4,000 fishers working on Scottish vessels and 113 fish processors operating in the country, the seafood industry plays a vital role in supporting jobs and coastal communities.

Of particular note is the dominance of Scottish salmon in the UK’s food export market, with overseas sales totalling £581 million in 2023. The annual sales of salmon within the UK alone amounted to approximately £1.25 billion, underscoring the sector’s economic significance.

Despite Brexit, access to EU markets remains crucial for Scottish seafood exports, with seven out of the top ten export destinations being EU member states. However, the trade barriers introduced as a result of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) have posed challenges for the industry, particularly regarding customs and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks.

Delays at ports and border points can have detrimental effects on the freshness of seafood products, ultimately undermining the profitability of the industry. The seafood sector relies heavily on routes such as the Channel Tunnel, with Boulogne-sur-Mer in France serving as a critical entry point into EU markets.

While trade between the EU and UK is manageable, Seafood Scotland emphasises the need for further efforts to reduce trade-related bureaucracy and streamline border processes. Initiatives such as digitisation and the adoption of risk-based surveillance could help minimise costs and challenges for traders.

Looking ahead, Seafood Scotland calls for greater cooperation between the UK and EU on SPS measures and fisheries arrangements. The gradual transfer of quota shares to the UK under the TCA until 2026 is noted as a significant development, with ongoing monitoring and advocacy efforts to ensure favourable outcomes for the Scottish seafood sector.

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