Ukraine: Russian patrol boats destroyed by drone attacks
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The Faroes last month prohibited Russian vessels from entering its ports but the ban does not apply to fishing boats. Barrie Deas, chief executive of The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations said: “I think it’s very regrettable that Faroese have permitted Russian vessels to fish in that area against the background of Ukraine. “We would support what our government has said, and others in the industry, that this is something that should be curbed.”
He said a response to Russia’s war in Ukraine needs to be “determined and comprehensive”, with resolute measures needed to isolate Russia and “dissuade it from aggression”.
Mr Deas believes the atrocities have put a spotlight on food security, and Britain’s dependence on foreign catch.
He said: “If there’s less fish in the market, the domestic landings by our own fishermen ought to benefit, because and indeed, fish prices are quite high at the moment.
“We’ve been talking to the government about food security, which is the bigger gain here, and the need to ensure that we’re not dependent on Russia, in either energy terms or food security terms.”
Melissa Moore, head of UK Policy at ocean conservation organisation Oceana said the UK should not be importing cod from Russia, or promote eating it from UK waters as most of our stocks are overfished and need to be recovered.
She said: “Oceana analysis of satellite tracking of fishing in UK waters, found 14 Russian flagged vessels fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas in 2021 and we doubt that has changed this year.
“All industrial fishing vessels, whatever their flag, need to be banned from fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas, and Russian vessels need to be banned from all UK waters.”
Ms Moore told how fish and chip shops should get more creative in selling alternatives to cod such as mackerel.
Industry experts said other options on the table include hake, red mullet and cuttlefish.
The UK government is expected to announce a 35 per cent tariff on Russian whitefish imports this month amid concern it could have a devastating impact on the country’s fish and chips sector.
Up to 40 percent of fillets used in fish and chip shops are of Russian origin – and Britain’s sanctions on Russian white fish will make these North Sea supplies scarcer and pricier.
In 2020, the UK imported 432,000 tonnes of whitefish at a value of £778million, meaning the money going to Russia is likely over £200million.
Aoife Martin, director of operations at Seafish, said: “UK government has been clear that the decision to implement a 35 per cent tariff sanction on Russian whitefish has been paused rather than postponed while further work was undertaken on likely impacts to the seafood sector.
“We now expect that the additional tariffs will be implemented in June and that they will apply to Russian origin fish.”
Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, said the nation’s appetite for cod and haddock is a barrier to switching to other fish.
He said: “People want cod or haddock, it is what people are used to. We’ve tried converting to different fish over the years.
“I think the government probably thinks, ‘Oh, well, we can just get people to buy different fish’ But it is a lot more difficult than that. Even with a lot of campaigning, I think people would still want cod and haddock.”
Fish and chip shops across the country are at risk of closure because of rocketing costs for energy, and ingredients like sunflower oil and peas.
Mr Crook said: “I think shops are already worrying now because we’re having to charge more than we’ve ever charged and you do worry that you price yourself out of the market. I’ve definitely lost customers.”
“We are an iconic part of the nation. We’ve got the Queen then you’ve got fish and chips. We have got a special place with the public. We’ve always been a cheap meal and I think we’re less so now. We’re still good value but if we don’t move our prices, we’re out of business.”
The Faroe Islands Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have been contacted for a comment.
By Steph Spyro
The UK is heavily reliant on imported whitefish.
In 2020 the UK imported 432,000 tonnes with a value of almost £800million.
Fish and chip shops are also heavily reliant on Russian supply.
Russia accounts for about 45% of the world’s whitefish supply, largely pollack, cod and haddock, and there is fierce competition to find other sources.
Brands are rushing to source whitefish elsewhere but prices have soared in recent months.
Trade body Seafish said: “The UK is not self-sufficient when it comes to domestic landings of whitefish. In order to meet consumer demand, whether in fish fingers or in fish and chips, we need to rely on imports. Russia has been an important source of these imports for almost 30 years.”
It is not just whitefish imports that are affected by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Both countries combined produce a quarter of global wheat supplies.
The war has impacted the production of the batter and the breadcrumbs used by fish and chip shops, and frozen fish products sold in supermarkets and restaurants.
Ukraine is also the main global producer of sunflower oil. While there are other vegetable oils available, disruptions to market supply, price increases and production challenges are inevitable.
By Cherilyn Mackrory Tory MP for Truro and Falmouth, and member the Conservative Environment Network
We’re an island nation with a proud maritime history, but bizarrely our eating habits don’t match up with what our fishermen catch.
British fishing boats land far more mackerel, herring and shellfish than we do cod and haddock. But our national dish, fish and chips, does not reflect that.
Because Brits overwhelmingly choose to eat cod and haddock, our fish and chip shops import supplies from other nations, including Iceland, Norway and Russia.
In the wake of Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, we are now in a ludicrous situation of supporting Russia’s economy instead of our fishing communities every time we visit the chippy.
While British businesses and consumers are willing to bear the brunt to help stop Putin’s invasion, Faroe Islands’ decision to use a loophole to let Russian fishermen into our shared special fishing area is appalling.
The government must work with these islands to close this loophole.
About 30 per cent of the UK’s cod and haddock is imported from Russia. Sanctions to stop the Kremlin’s grotesque war will soon slap a 35 per cent tariff on the country’s white fish, putting British fish and chip shops at risk.
They’re already feeling the squeeze because half of our sunflower oil was imported from Ukraine before the invasion. With sanctions and possible shortages, a third of our fish and chip shops could close.
But, we the British consumer, could keep them open and revive our fishing communities by buying locally caught fish. Supermarkets have a big role to play in helping the nation choose British fish over imports, but the government must play its part by improving the health of our seas.
Freed from the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, we can restore our depleted stocks by introducing sustainable fishing quotas. If we can restore our waters after decades of disastrous mismanagement in the bloc, we can put affordable food on the table and protect our seas.
To do this, we must also ban bottom-trawling in the UK’s Marine Protected Areas. This damaging method – which EU vessels are responsible for 60 per cent of – wrecks our seabed and overfishes, endangering UK fishing stocks.
While leaving the EU is an opportunity to reallocate fishing quotas to British boats and take back control of our waters, as consumers we should also think about what’s on our plates.
In 2020, our fishermen landed six times as much mackerel, herring and blue whiting than cod and haddock. And almost as much crab and scallops as the classic fish and chip choice.
Buying British catch would support our fish and chip shops and our fishermen.
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