Despite the many challenges of the past year, new opportunities are opening up for the UK industry now that we are an independent coastal state, writes fisheries minister Victoria Prentis

Last week I was thrilled to visit Brixham, one of the busiest fishing ports in England, and see first-hand the outstanding work carried out by our industry.

It was great to meet local business people and producer organisations. At Brixham’s fishmarket, we were blown away by the incredible variety and quality of the fish and seafood caught, landed, processed and sold from Brixham. Meeting local processors, fishing industry representatives and traders, I saw the level of passion and pride in the sector.

It has been a difficult period for the industry. The closure of hospitality both at home and abroad has led to an abrupt loss of our markets, and exporters have had to adapt to new systems that are in place for an independent coastal state. During my visit, I discussed these pressures with local industry, including changes to export requirements.

As markets reopen and commercial fishing picks back up, it is important that our fishermen are safe when out at sea. On my visit, I was pleased to also have the opportunity hear about the work of the volunteers in the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the excellent support provided by the Fishermen’s Mission.

We have now concluded annual negotiations with the EU for 2021. This government is committed to securing deals that meet the interests of the industry, and providing clarity after what has been an uncertain time. As a result of the agreement, we have secured UK-EU fishing opportunities for 2021 which hold a value of approximately £333m. This equates to around 26,000t more quota compared to quotas allocated in 2020.

We also plan to hold the first meeting of the Specialised Committee on Fisheries with the EU within the next few months. This should provide a forum for the UK and the EU to discuss and co-operate on a range of fisheries matters.

Although it has been a challenging period, there are many exciting opportunities ahead, and I was pleased to hear from companies in Brixham who are investing in new vessels to make the most of this. I believe there is still much untapped potential in British fisheries, and we will soon be able to support some of these innovative ideas through the £100m of funding pledged by government to the industry, as well as the existing Fisheries and Seafood Scheme and the Levelling Up fund.

Over the last year of lockdown, many more people have discovered British fish as a varied and quality product. I understand that since the beginning of the year there has been a significant increase in seafood sales destined for UK markets. I hope this real change in consumer trends encourages future growth.

As I saw in Brixham, our industry has a lot to offer – innovative ideas, entrepreneurism and expertise across the sector. As Covid-19 restrictions ease over the coming months, I look forward to meeting many more from the fishing industry.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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