Fish and shellfish workers in Cornwall say some are at risk of losing their homes because they have overnight banned exports of products to the European Union.
From January 1st, the European Union has stopped selling oysters, scallops, clams, cockles and mussels known as live bivalve mollusks (LBM) caught by British fishermen in so-called “Class B” waters.
While the government said it was looking for a “urgent solution”, the European Commission told Sky News that for health reasons the ban applies to all third countries and is “not surprising” for the UK.
Image: Some fishermen say their income has ceased completely.
The Sailors Creek Shellfish company in Falmouth, Cornwall, has 99% of its business gone.
Shellfish are purchased from an independent group of fishermen known as Fal’s Oystermen, who have used wind and oars to dredge riverbeds for oysters and scallops for hundreds of years.
Their clams are supplied to restaurants across Europe.
65-year-old Tim Heard has been oysters for 50 years and has seen his income completely cease.
Emphasizing the seriousness of the situation after Brexit, he said, “If I had no money in the bank and my wife didn’t work, we would have left the house.”
He added: “Here are people who drank because of this power. They don’t know where to go, what to do, how to pay the bills.
“We thought it would follow Brexit. It’s presumed that the market was classified. But they knocked on the door in the face of my buyer. I think it’s the EU that the UK is giving a lesson to Brexit.”
“I have a Padstow friend who has spent more than 2 million pounds on crab catches, and they are dead. I’m not going to sleep at night,” he added.
Image: The European Commission has said that the ban applies to all third countries and is not surprising to the UK government.
Martin Laity, who runs the Sailors Creek Shellfish company, said there was no reason why the export trade of Class B shellfish could not continue.
“Before Christmas we were promised access to the market. There are no tariffs. We thought of bingo. We’re here, but it wasn’t,” he said. “These tariff-free barriers are quite an obstacle. We have to go through the first. We have to go through the first. The first is what we are still waiting for.”
Laity described the situation as “dark.”
“There are a lot of mortgages. People need money,” he said. “People could pay a mortgage this month, but they won’t be able to do it next month… we have 2-3 people buying on the spot and 2-3 people who drank.
“It seems difficult and very unnecessary.”
Exports of LBM from the UK to the EU amount to about £15 million, which is part of the total production of the shellfish industry. But Mr. Ray T says that’s not the point.
“There are many heritages and cultures,” he said.
“It’s not that big financially, but you can’t measure everything by numbers. If you measure it by cultural measure, the London Square Mile would be 0 and 100.”
He is urging the government to put pressure on the EU to exempt UK Class B LBMs from the ban.
“Start going. Sort. Get fitness. Go to Europe and sort,” he said. “We want to know. Can we export our products? If not, we need great intervention to promote other markets.
“And I’m not talking about the fairy tale market, which is 6,000 miles from an airplane where freight rates have tripled. I’m talking about a decent market in the UK. The people segment of Category B shellfish produces thousands of tons of a lot of product.”
Image: British exports of Class A shellfish caught in essentially pristine waters are still allowed.
Falmouth Congressman Jayne Kirkham is saying, “Fal’s oysters have been in Falmouth for so long that they are an important part of town and bring something unique. Not only do we lose the export industry, we will not be able to eat ourselves in the restaurants, either. “
In essence, exports of Class A shellfish caught in clean water to the UK are still allowed.
Refining a Class B product makes it possible for export, but the industry says the process will make business impossible.
In a statement, the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said, “It is unacceptable that the European Commission has changed its position on the export of live bivalve mollusks in Class B waters. There is no scientific or technical justification for this. Already in the business of both channels. Has an impact.
“We are looking for an urgent solution to this problem and have called for a meeting with the committee in the future. We are willing to provide additional reassurance to prove the health of fish and shellfish to the extent reasonable. However, this is the old high standard. We must be aware of the trade history between us.”
Image: The British government says it is seeking an’urgent solution’.
A spokesman for the European Commission said: “Imports into the EU of live bivalve mollusks for human consumption originate from Region A in which they are classified and all health and health for mollusks intended for immediate human consumption. Only allowed if hygiene requirements are met.
“As a result, live bivalve mollusks originating from a third country in a production area classified as B or C cannot be imported into the Union because they do not meet these health requirements. This also applies to the UK, which is currently a third country.
“The rules in this area have not changed. These rules have been applied to and continue to apply to all third countries. The Commission is aware that these requirements are not temporary and are currently applicable to the UK’s highest number of coffins and the UK shellfish industry. All shellfish imported from the UK as a direct result of Brexit.
“This is nothing new and no surprise to the British administration. The commission received a letter from British Environment Minister George Eustice to Commissioner Kyriakides about the trade in live bivalve mollusks from the UK to the EU for cleanup. Legal in this area A reply was sent confirming the reality.”
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