Mairi Gougeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, in the Scottish Government has written to the UK Government for the postponement of talks on fishing stocks which include the participation of Russia.
A series of meetings on sharing arrangements for fishing stocks is currently planned to take place in London on the week of the 14 of March.
In her letter (2nd March 2022) to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice MP about Russia and international fisheries’ negotiations, Mairi Gougeon points out how important fishing is to the Scottish economy but that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “an assault on a peaceful sovereign state” and “to allow the Russian Federation to participate, remotely or in person, in such discussions would be an insult to our Ukrainian friends and partners.”
The fish trade with Russia is complex and involves a complicated supply chain including processors of Russian caught white fish in China. The instability of the energy market, the effects of the UK leaving the EU, and the Covid-19 pandemic, have also added into the costs of white fish processing and trade routes.
The UK is heavily reliant on imported whitefish. In 2020 the UK imported 432,000 tonnes with a value of almost £800m. This compares to domestic landings of cod and haddock of 47,200 tonnes in 2020.
The UK fishing sector also has a sizeable pelagic trade with the Ukraine. In 2020 the UK exported £25m worth of pelagic product. There are also some exports to salmon. Following discussions with the pelagic processors it is understood that the UKR market is now closed and alternative buyers in mainland Europe are being sourced.
In her letter to the UK Government Mairi Gougeon states that the shares and allocation of key stocks, including mackerel, blue whiting and Atlanto Scandian herring are of “significant importance to Scotland, within the UK, we hold 75% of the overall mackerel quota, 93% of the blue whiting quota and 98% of the Atlanto Scandian herring quota. “
In 2021, Russian fisheries exported products to 67 countries, versus 60 a year previously. The Netherlands took in the third-most amount of Russian seafood in 2021 by volume, followed by Japan, Belarus, Ukraine, and Nigeria. Some of the fastest-growing markets for Russian seafood were European markets, such as France, which increased purchases of Russian seafood by 112 percent by volume; Norway, which took in 100 percent more Russian seafood in 2021 than the year prior; Italy, which bought 152 percent more Russian seafood in 2021; and Poland, which increased its Russian seafood purchases by 113 percent. Most of these markets are likely to enact severe trading limitations against Russia as a result of its aggression in Ukraine.Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, new sanctions affect global seafood markets
Effective UK sanctions against Russia would need to apply to Russian originating product not ‘just’ exports from Russia. For example, Russian fish exported to China for processing before export to the EU and the UK – depending on the degree of processing the fish could acquire Chinese status when it is imported to the UK but catch certificates will still demonstrate the origin of the fish as being Russian.
Russian Vessels: UK Government Guidance
The Regulations prohibit Russian ships, and other ships specified by the Secretary of State, from entering ports in the United Kingdom. The Regulations also confer powers on the Secretary of State and harbour authorities to issue port barring directions to the master or pilot of a specified ship. The Regulations provide the Secretary of State with a power to control the movement of Russian ships or specified ships by requiring them to leave or enter specified ports, proceed to a specified place or remain where they are.
The Regulations prohibit the registration of ships owned, controlled, chartered or operated by designated persons or persons connected with Russia on the UK Ship Register and confer powers on the Secretary of State to direct the UK Ship Registrar to terminate the registration of such ships.
The Regulations also confer powers on the Secretary of State and harbour authorities to detain Russian ships or specified ships at ports or anchorages.
Russian ships include:
- a ship owned, controlled, chartered or operated by a designated person
- a ship owned, controlled, chartered or operated by persons connected with Russia
- a ship registered in Russia, or
- a ship flying the flag of Russia
These sanctions do not apply to other ships originating from or destined for Russian ports; ships carrying cargo to or from Russia are not within scope of the transport sanctions unless they fall within the definition of a Russian ship or specified ship as above. These Regulations do not apply to ships (that are not otherwise included in the Regulations) with Russian crews or Masters, unless they are a designated person.
The Regulations also provide the Secretary of State with the power to issue a direction in relation to the movement of British cruise ships, preventing them from entering any ports located in Crimea. Such a direction can be given to any master or pilot of a British ship which is a cruise ship or to the master or pilots of a ship which is providing cruise services.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is ultimately responsible for the implementation of these transport sanctions.
If sanctions are applied to Russian fish it is expected to result in significant trade disruption which could see delays in product arriving into the UK. The inevitable cost increases that this will create will filter through to higher retail prices.
All of this adds to the Cost of Living Crisis and will contribute to wider food security issues. While there are not currently sanctions on seafood some of the finance/banking sanctions will impact how UK companies’ source and pay for product.