Leaders in the UK fishing industry have written to the Secretary of State, George Eustice warning that that the government’s bureaucratic requirements needed to export fish to the EU from 01 January will have a “seriously detrimental effect” on the industry.
The joint letter sent on 30 October, asks the Secretary for Defra and the MMO (Marine Management Organisation) to urgently reconsider the arrangements being put in place for validation catch certificates for fish that are exported abroad.
The letter says that the MMO ‘s proposals would have a serious detrimental effect on fish exports from the UK and on the future viability of large segments of the catching sector, auction houses, merchants and processors.
The group writes “It would be the final straw for many businesses which are still facing extremely tough times because of the pandemic. This affects all sectors and just about all sizes of vessels.”
In the letter they warn that any delay in getting fish on to foreign markets could be detrimental for the fishing and seafood industry. Seafood handlers are afraid that delays could mean losses of fish, which is highly perishable, and in return, this would mean massive damage to reputations and huge financial losses.
At fault, they say, is the new regulatory system for monitoring fish and shellfish.
From 01 January 2021, all fish exports will need to be accompanied by a catch certificate.
“The MMO now seems to be insisting that before a catch certificate can be issued in the new regime for 2021, logbook landing declarations, catch app returns and sales notes must be with the MMO before a catch certificate can be checked and validated.”
This means that all this information must be gathered and submitted by the deadline set in the EU Regulations, and the data on landing declarations and sales notes must match.
The group believes that theoretically, “this might not seem unreasonable, but it fails to take into account regulatory, logistical and commercial realities.”
The group claims that if the MMO insists on having all documents submitted to them before a catch certificate is issued, it will in effect “exclude any export within 48 hours of that fish/shellfish being landed, with all the loss of value and quality that this brings.”
Another area of concern for the group is weighing. The MMO has been unable to explain how they will reconcile two or three different weights for the same fish (including estimates and where only a portion of the catch is exported) and be able to validate the catch certificate.
“Local MMO staff seem to be as perplexed about this as we are,” says the group.
The letter says that the issue has been raised with Defra officials on a number of occasions, but so far without resolution.
The letter concludes by saying “Ironically, the Government has identified and acknowledged that perishable seafood products should be given systems priority for exports over other goods, whilst at the same time we are presented with MMO demands that do the very opposite, by effectively delaying exports.”
The letter was signed by:
Newlyn Fish Auction, Ocean Fish, Falfish Ltd, Trelawney Fish, Ocean Harvest, Bluesail Fish, Ltd, Interfish Ltd, Coombe Fisheries Ltd, Plymouth Trawler Agents, Brixham Trawler Agents, Ian Perkes Fish Merchants, Dartmouth Crab Company Ltd, South West Fish Producers Organisation, Trident Fish, Samways Fish Merchants, Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales Ltd, South East Fishermen’s Protection Association, Felixstowe Ferry Fishermen’s Association, Harwich Harbour Fishermen’s Association, Chapman’s Fish Group, DFDS Transport Ltd etc.