The Scottish Seafood Exports Taskforce met for the final time last Monday, but with reassurances that ‘tailored dialogue with the fisheries sector’ will continue.
The taskforce grew from consultation with the industry to address the export issues experienced after Britain left the EU. It brought together key industry representatives from the catching, processing and aquaculture segments with senior political figures and officials from both the UK and Scottish governments.
The taskforce was chaired by David Duguid, UK government minister for Scotland (pictured above). He said: “A tremendous spirit of co-operation has helped us deliver results, for instance on more rapid digitisation of the processes around exporting. The frequency of supplier declarations has been cut back, helping ease the administrative burden on business, and other changes driven by the taskforce have cut the time required to ready seafood for export.
“We will issue a final report from the taskforce, and have agreed to reconvene in six weeks’ time to map out with industry how best to continue our productive two-government engagement.”
He added: “We plan to keep delivering action-focused engagement, and look forward to the sector maximising the opportunities that come from the UK now being an independent coastal state, free of the yoke of the Common Fisheries Policy.
“The UK government has committed £100m into the sector to help ensure an industry vital to so many of our coastal communities has a bright future.
“I would like to thank everyone involved, especially those from within the industry, without whom the taskforce could not have delivered the results we have.’
The Scottish Seafood Exports Taskforce grew from consultation with the seafood and aquaculture industry, and met virtually. It held eight formal meetings, while expert sub-groups considered specific issues in detail.
It had a core membership drawn from the catching, processing, exporting and aquaculture sectors, and invited industry experts and specialists to join on an ad hoc basis.
Attendees from the UK government included DEFRA secretary of state George Eustice and fisheries minister Victoria Prentis.
Scottish government cabinet secretary for rural affairs Fergus Ewing and, latterly, his replacement, Mairi Gougeon, also attended.
Speaking ahead of the final meeting of the taskforce, Mairi Gougeon urged the UK government to ensure a forum continues to exist at least until the end of 2021.
The extension would allow issues related to exports to be worked through, and preparation for further changes to trade arrangements, she said.
Ms Gougeon said: “Through the taskforce, the Scottish government has highlighted significant issues facing the sector, including the digitisation of export paperwork and the transit of goods from EU vessels.
“Six months on from Brexit and the seafood sector is still trying to work through the red tape and barriers to trade imposed by a damaging and last-minute deal.
“At this crucial point, where we are starting to see some hope of recovery, there remains a strong need for a forum where ministers from the UK and Scottish governments, and industry, continue working together to minimise the impact of changes to import regulations.”
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.