Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross was accused of “failing” north-east fishing communities after appearing on a radio phone-in.
Mr Ross was challenged by a caller named Peter, who claimed he was “heavily involved in the fishing industry” and had voted for the Conservatives for most of his life.
However, the caller accused the party of creating a “debacle” around Brexit.
Businesses in the sector have complained about being unable to export goods to key markets in Europe since new rules came into place in January.
In response, Mr Ross said: “I understand how difficult this has been for the fishing industry, and that is why I said we had to get a compensation scheme up and running.
“We have got to get to the root of the problems, and those are added bureaucracy and red tape which wasn’t there before but was there from January 1.
“I want to continue working with the industry. We have got to make sure all the problems there are with red tape and bureaucracy are minimised and reduced as much as possible.”
SNP candidate Karen Adam, who is standing in the Banffshire and Buchan Coast constituency at next month’s election, said: “Douglas Ross and the Tories have broken their Brexit promises and betrayed Scotland’s fishing communities – forcing the vital sector to pay a heavy price, with many being pushed to the brink.
“Throughout the entire Brexit process, the Tories have only ever managed to identify a single supposed benefit to Scotland of leaving the EU – the promise to take back full control of fisheries, which has been exposed as yet another shameless Tory lie.
“And despite previously setting out key tests and red lines on fishing, Ross quickly backtracked and fell into line behind Boris Johnson. It is little surprise that voters are turning their backs on Douglas Ross and the Tories over their failure.”