Brexit Trade Deal has Fisherman Throwing Fish Back

Scottish Fishing Boats Photo: Colin Smith, Wiki CC

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Scottish fishers are scrambling to stay afloat during COVID-19, and Brexit red-tape is making it even harder. Attempts to navigate new border checks and customs rules have been met with paperwork issues and administrative errors, causing delays in shipments to the European Union. Trade organization Scotland Food and Drink estimates industry losses of $1.4 million per day, threatening the livelihoods of workers who have been fishing for generations. Fishers drove to London and threatened to dump rotting shellfish in front of parliament buildings if export delays continue.

Why This Matters: Brexit isn’t the only thing threatening the Scottish fishing industry. As the North Sea warms, fish distributions shift and change, and experts say Scottish fisheries are largely unprepared.  Additionally, a recent report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) established in a recent paper that coastal communities, especially those that rely on fishing as a source of income, are uniquely equipped to fight climate change. One expert explained, “the fishing industry generates a wealth of relevant information that has yet to be fully utilized.” Without a solution, thousands could lose their jobs, and the United Kingdom could lose a valuable tool in the fight against climate change.

Catch and Release

“Scotland’s fishing grounds in the North Sea are a global hotspot for warming waters… The fishing industry doesn’t fully appreciate the scale of changes that have already taken place and will continue to impact fish over the foreseeable future.”Dr. Tara Marshall, University of Aberdeen

Scottish fisheries are now taking drastic measures to sell their seafood and prevent further losses. Some fisheries are now flying live lobster and crab to Asia, while others are sending workers on 72-hour round trips through Denmark to circumvent the new regulations. The most extreme: some fisheries have resorted to throwing their catches back into the ocean to avoid wasting unsold product.

Scottish fisherman drove hours from Scotland to protest in front of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s residence, 10 Downing Street. Protesters expressed their grievances to reporters, citing that the regulations set up by the December 24, 2020 trade deal left only a week for regulators to familiarize themselves with the new rules before they kicked in on January 1, 2021. Jamie McMillan, the managing director of Loch Fyne Seafarms and Loch Fyne Langoustines, said in a video posted to social media, “we’ve been made a fool of by the Westminster government. It’s an absolute disgrace what we’ve had to go through.”

One More Thing

Fish is one of the most sustainable sources of protein on earth. Fish don’t require large swaths of land or agricultural systems to provide them with food and research shows that dietary shifts could play a key role in fighting climate change. Nathan Pelletier, an ecological economist and industrial ecologist, explains, “abundant fisheries, from a climate change perspective, will be less greenhouse gas intensive.”

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