Hope is on the horizon for the Scottish fishing industry as news that Spain and Italy is slowly coming out of lockdown and the market for fish appears to be opening.
News that the continental whitefish markets are opening up as the lockdown eases will be a welcomed relief to the northern fleet.
“The Spanish market is now back up and running, and as they slowly ease themselves out of lockdown it’s expected to see a little more Italian trade beginning to come through this week,” says the Seafood Scotland.
“There are concerns here though, as most exporting into Italy have aged debtor issues to some degree or another, and it’s not expected that all Italian wholesalers will reopen, with some choosing to wind up and/or go into administration.”
Some of the whitefish fleet in Scotland, that concentrate mainly on exports are currently on an eight day tie-up after landing last week. Recent uncertainty on the continental market, mainly fueled by the call of fishing associations in the north of France to boycott Scottish fish, led many fish buyers to cancel all Scottish orders.
Speaking to Seafood Source yesterday, Mike Park, CEO of the Scottish White Fish Association, said a “buy-local” movement in France spurred by the coronavirus has resulted in French retailers spurning Scottish imports.
“Unfortunately, the small volume of exports of species such as hake and anglerfish that we have managed to maintain, has been disrupted following protests by Breton fishermen, who have succeeded in persuading some local retailers to boycott our fish,” said Mike Park.
This is a far cry from the 250 or 400 tonnes Olivier le Nezet, president of the Brittany Regional Fisheries Committee claimed had come from “Scotland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark or Ireland.”
It is unclear when the French market will open again to their European coastal neighbours but with the majority of the fleet there waiting for 11 May, when France will end its COVID-19 lockdown, it appears that the campaign to “buy local” will remain in place for the foreseeable future until the demand for fresh fish in the country recovers.
On the prawn fishing front, some of the boats have put to sea as it looks that the demand for nephrops might be on the rise. Nephrops remains the most valuable export for the Scottish fishing industry.
In 2019, the Scottish fleet landed 23,370 tonnes of nephrops worth approximately £73.5 million, just ahead of mackerel which came in under £73 million.