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Scottish shellfish industry facing potential ruin amid coronavirus pandemic

Click on the flag for more information about United Kingdom UNITED KINGDOM
Monday, March 23, 2020, 05:30 (GMT + 9)

Scotland’s premium shellfish sector has “collapsed” and fishing crews face potential ruin as restaurant closures demolish demand, industry leaders say.

Demand for Scottish crab, langoustine, and similar shellfish is driven by the restaurant and hotel sector, as well as overseas buyers.

But social distancing rules related to the coronavirus pandemic have driven a raft of closures across the hospitality industry.

Now crews – including many small boats and family businesses – are facing an “unprecedented” challenge to their future, with other forms of fishing also affected.

On the west coast some boats have been tied up for a week already and overseas crewmen – mostly from Eastern Europe – have left Scotland after operations dwindled.

Kevin McDonell, of the West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation, told The National: “The market has just collapsed. It’s gone, there’s just no demand for it. It’s a lot of small businesses. Their boats have been tied-up already for a week.

“We don’t even know if we’ve reached the worst of it.

“We are looking for support as soon as possible.”

Official returns show more than 445,000 tonnes of sea fish and shellfish were caught in 2018, worth more than GBP 573 million.

The coastal industry provides vital employment in communities where job creation in other sectors is scarce.

McDonell, who is based in Mallaig, says the crisis is hitting especially hard after a series of winter storms kept boats from going out and reduced incomes.

Langoustine (nephrops norvegicus). Photo: ScotPrime Seafoods Ltd.

Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge all hit within a single four-week period.

 McDonell said: “We are just coming out of one of the worst winters in 15 years. A lot of the boats have only spent a handful of days at sea since January. We have better weather now and this is when they’d be able to make up some of the lost earnings. The Easter markets are the second biggest in the year after Christmas – sales increase, prices go up – but they’re not going to have that.

“It’s potentially catastrophic. It’s hard to believe we are in this situation.”

Author: Laura Webster / The National (Read the entire article here)

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