Bosses at UK Fisheries and North Atlantic Fishing Company have talked up Hull’s prospects after the UK leaves the EU
The future of Hull’s fishing industry is looking “bright”, according to fishing bosses.
Brexit might be causing upheaval in British politics but those in the fishing industry – once the largest employer in Hull – see the divorce from Brussels bringing prosperity back to the Humber.
UK Fisheries Limited, a Humber-based company owned by a Dutch-Icelandic partnership, is currently building a new multi-million pound vessel and North Atlantic Fishing Company is in talks about landing its catch into Hull
Jane Sandell, UK Fisheries chief executive, said her company was the “last remnants” of Hull’s distant water fishing fleet.
The company’s frozen fish trawler, the Kirkella, has mainly Norwegian cod quota which it fillets and freezes on board before selling to 300 fish and chips shops across the country.
As a member of the European Union, the UK currently has to rely on negotiators from Brussels to determine the amount of fish it can catch in Norwegian waters.
Outside the EU, ministers will be able to strike their own quota deals with Norway after taking back control of British waters.
“There is a lot instability at the moment because we clearly don’t have a clue where things are going to go,” said Mrs Sandell.
“But for the UK fishing industry as a whole, there is a really bright future as we can start to negotiate on our own terms rather than with other countries.
“We have a new vessel [the Kirkella II] that will shortly be delivered which represents a considerable inward investment in the UK fishing industry. We would not be making those decision if we did not feel there was a bright future ahead.”
There was dismay when it was revealed the Brexit transition period meant Britain would not leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy until 2021 – two years later than originally thought.
But Mrs Sandell, speaking in Westminster, said it was important to focus on “the long game” and ensure the fishing industry’s message was heard “loud and clear” by MPs.
The 86m Kirkella trawler – soon to be replaced by the new vessel next month – supports 65 crew and office jobs with 75 per cent of those going to British staff who hail mainly from Hull and Grimsby, said Mrs Sandell.
With 450 tonnes of fish on board when it berths in the deep waters of the Port of Hull, the haul is enough to supply two million people with their fish suppers.
It also operates the Farnella trawler which landd fresh fish into Denmark.
“We are a bit of a one off in the UK,” said the chairwoman of the Fish Producers Organisation.
“There are just three boats working in northern waters fishing for white fish and we have two of them.
“We are the last remnants of the days when trawlers went out to Bear Island and Svalbard to fish, before the Cod Wars.
“We still have quite a few staff who remember those days which is really nice.”
Matthew Cox, CEO of North Atlantic Fishing Company, said his firm is currently in talks with Associated British Ports (ABP), the company that operates Hull port, to discuss landing their catch into the city.
Owned by a Dutch-parent company, North Atlantic already has a Hull office at the Louis Pearlman Centre and at least 60 fisherman from the city working on its two British-registered fishing vessels, the 113m Cornelis Vrolijk Fzn and Northern Joy.
Its vessels fish mainly for mackerel and herring and, because they are more popular elsewhere, export them to eastern Europe, parts of Africa and the Far East.
North Atlantic’s vessels currently land into Rotterdam, which has a sophisticated operation for containing the frozen catch before export, but Mr Cox said Hull could get the company’s business after Brexit.
If the EU does apply third-country tariffs on fish processed by UK companies, costs could increase significantly for North Atlantic with mackerel threatened with tariffs of 25 per cent.
“We are looking at ways of getting back to Hull and establishing a base there,” said Mr Cox“We are talking to ABP at the moment about establishing a permanent presence at the Port of Hull.
“There are numerous uncertainties but we see Brexit as an opportunity for the UK fishing industry as a whole.”