Each week Clive Palfrey, Regional Safety Adviser for Seafood Cornwall Training, provides an update on the comings and goings from the UK’s fishing ports and markets. Pulled together from skippers and merchants across the country this piece provides an insight into the UK’s fishing fleets and the amazing range of seafood they land every day.
South West England
Prices are still reasonably good when landing on Plymouth market, but certain species being landed to the larger markets has made the prices fluctuate immensely, this is due to high volume and low demand. Prime fish such as turbot, Dover sole and bass prices have generally been steady throughout. There are still issues exporting some of the specific species such as megrim sole. This fish is usually exported into Southwest Europe but due to restrictions in tourism at the moment the demand is exceptionally low.
Fishermen Austin Long, 37, and his father Stephen have reported to the BBC news that they have started to sell fish for the first time through Facebook. Mr Long had said that a boat of their size would normally have to land all of their catch to a wholesale agent, but grant funding from the Fishmongers’ Company Charitable Trust and Seafarers UK enabled them to push direct sales. This funding helped them to purchase all the equipment needed to furnish a processing unit. Initially they set this up in their garage, but they are now awaiting a new shed which would be far more suitable. Mr long went on to say that business was “booming” as people started to find out that they could purchase affordable fresh local fish. Incredibly positive for all communities.
Sam Chapman, 26, a wholesaler from Looe, told reporters that his business usually sold to restaurants when suddenly they were all told overnight to completely close. This left Sam with many sleepless nights at the start of lockdown especially with a new 3-week-old baby at home to support. 80% of his customers literally were closed down overnight and he was terrified he would be made to follow suit. Luckily, a friend asked him if he could have a £30 box of mixed fish, giving him the idea to advertise said box on their Nippers Shellfish Facebook page, which in return turned out to be his saviour! Sam is continuing to deliver these boxes alongside his wholesale accounts.
STAR BUY: SPIDER CRABS. Spider crabs are on the march! They undertake an annual migration where they move in great numbers into deep water often covering 10s of miles over several months. This migration is poorly understood but thought to be linked to breeding. The species has a lovely edible white meat found in its legs and claws.
North West Scotland
Scallop fishermen are continuing to struggle. This time last year, scallop meat price was at £13.50 per kilo but this year, due to COVID-19, it is down to £10.00 per kilo in Scotland and some days down as low as £8.00 per kilo in parts of England. Scallop fishermen from Oban are renown across Great Britain as being some of the best, having the ability to travel around the British Isles, seeking out their scallops from all corners, especially when they had the best fishing on the “Doggerbank” in the middle of the North sea. There was plentiful fishing on this ground in May, June and July, until the fishery was closed to allow the scallops to spawn. The majority of the boats are fishing with crew safety in mind, maintaining social distancing on trips. Usually crew will work on a 2 trips on, 1 trip off sequence but to stop the risk of cross contamination, the crew are now working 1 trip on and 1 off. This unfortunately makes a loss in wage to the crew and the turnover will be lower for both vessel and owners.
Unfortunately for fishermen in Portavogie, little has changed for them. They are managing to get to sea but the prices for their catch are still low. Talking to one of the skippers, he told me that the boats use mostly overseas crew, mainly from the Philippines. These are due to return home soon and to be replaced by 3 more but every time the skippers book a flight it seems to get cancelled. So far 3 flights to Manilla have been cancelled as they are still in lockdown until the 18th August. This is creating a massive problem through skipper and crew as they both need to recharge their batteries.