Pictures have emerged of the Peterhead Fish Market which shows the real impact of Brexit with only 400 boxes available for firms to purchase, out of a possible 6,500.
A north-east processer has spoken out about his frustrations with Brexit as pictures of Peterhead Fish Market showed just 400 boxes making it to market earlier this morning.
The usual capacity of 10,000 boxes of fish at the venue has been reduced to 6,500 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but this morning William Clark, managing director of Wilsea, said just 400 boxes were available for purchasing, far less than usual.
Mr Clark, who has been working in Peterhead since 1995 says his understanding of the market is that there is a feeling among some fisherman that there is less of a need for their product, something he says couldn’t be further from the truth.
He said: “Pre-Covid it has a capacity of 10,000 boxes. Because of Covid, there is a capacity of 6,500 every day, but today there was only 400.
“I think this is a result of negativity from the press and on the TV where fisherman have been scared to go to sea as they feel there’s not a market for their product, although people have to realise there’s a market in the UK which needs servicing. It is probably one of the biggest markets on our doorsteps and it has been grossly overlooked for years.
“The situation now is we’ve had vessels landing their catch in Denmark and going to the factories that they have been advised to or feel is a better route to market. If you starve a local community you end up losing the infrastructure and the port, and before you know it Peterhead could become a garage for boats.”
From essential workers to closures
With essential worker status, William is unsure how the industry has gone from being at the forefront of feeding the nation, to factories closing down and fish markets being near enough empty.
He added: “The whole world has had a horrendous 12 months and at the end of the day we have worked and serviced the industry as best we can.
“Throughout lockdown, we were classed as essential workers, but if we have no raw material or nothing to put into the food chain then how do we keep our staff? If you begin to lose these skilled workers, what does that look like? There’s already been a few factories that have called it a day before Christmas.
If you starve a local community you end up losing the infrastructure and the port, and before you know it Peterhead could become a garage for boats.”
William Clark of Wilsea.
“It’s a trend you don’t really want to continue. We have to nurture what industry we have left in this country. Although the fishing deal was a bit of a toss up between a nativity play and the deal itself, and it looks like the nativity play won.”
Although William says there has been a slow decline in produce making its way to market since he first started operating in the Peterhead area 26 years ago, he is concerned.
“Every year I have seen it decline. The industry itself is very resilient and goes from one catastrophe to the next,” said William.
“We’re still here, still trying to employ people and pay tax. It is a win-win for the government in that sense and could be a growth industry but that hasn’t really been inhibited with the deal.
We’ve been here before at low levels due to adverse weather conditions but it just seems like someone has turned off a tap. It has gone from hero to zero in the space of two weeks. We were running at capacity two weeks ago and now with all that’s going on, there’s not much going on. There’s a market that needs to be serviced here in the UK, we can’t forget that.”
Near enough empty
And he’s not the only one to notice the huge decrease in the amount of fish coming through the market’s doors, with supplier of Scottish fish Jack Taylor sharing this video of a near-empty market.
James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink also shared William’s images on Twitter to showcase the challenges the fishing industry is facing.
His Tweet has 209 comments on it and has been retweeted more than 1.6K times since he posted it.
What a sad sight. Europe’s biggest fish market in Peterhead like a ghost town. Built to deal with 10,000 boxes/day but with a few hundred.
Boats tied up, exporters crippled.
No Brexit image of lorry queues, it’s the sight of trade that isn’t moving at all. Pics via @will051266 pic.twitter.com/JLCYRCGh3P
— James Withers (@scotfoodjames) January 19, 2021
Peterhead Port Authority has been contacted for comment.