Sunday, 29 May 2022

Russian trawlers have access to £16m of fish in British waters despite fishing ban

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At least six Russian boats have recently entered the area to catch whitefish, estimated to be worth around £16 million, using Faroese licences, Government officials have said. According to reports, despite a ban on Russian vessels fishing in UK waters or landing at British ports, trawlers have access to a “Special Area” that is jointly controlled by the UK Government and the Faroe Islands.

A Government source told The Telegraph: “The Faroe Islands must take a tougher stance on this.

“Allowing Russian vessels access to an area worth around £16 million in the midst of the horrors we are seeing in Ukraine is simply wrong.

“We, alongside our allies and partners, have taken urgent action to maximise damage to Putin’s war machine and degrade the Russian economy for years to come.

“We will categorically not licence any Russian flagged vessels to fish anywhere in UK waters, and we will continue to urge the Faroes to follow our lead, ban these vessels, and do what is ultimately the right thing to do.”

A Whitehall source said ministers are concerned that allowing the boats in during an upcoming six-week window of migration for Blue Whiting will allow Russia to profit from the fish, funding its “war machine”.

The ‘Special Area’ off Scottish coast is jointly controlled by Faroe Islands, who have continued to grant licences to Russians

The UK has already slapped a 35 percent tariff on imports of Russian whitefish in an attempt to damage the country’s fishing industry, and has announced it will not issue any licences to Russian trawlers because of the war in Ukraine.

According to existing fishing laws, foreign boats can only fish in UK waters if they are granted licences, which requires a framework agreement between Britain and the other country.

The UK does not have such an agreement with Russia, so trawlers are not usually allowed in British waters anyway, except to pass through.

Roughly 30 percent of the UK’s whitefish originates from Russia, which controls between 40 to 45 percent of the global supply, according to industry body Seafish.

When the measure was first announced, Britain’s seafood processing industry and struggling fish and chip shops, which rely on the supply of Russian whitefish such as cod, said they feared price rises as sanctions could put the squeeze on their businesses.

The whitefish sanctions were announced on March 15.

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However, unlike other Russian products targeted, including cereal, cement and fertiliser, the tariffs were not imposed on whitefish when they came into force on March 24, according to Seafish.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the Government is imposing the “most punishing sanctions ever on Russia following its unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

The spokesman added: “We intend to introduce a 35 percent tariff on imports of whitefish from Russia, subject to further work on the specific implications for the sector.”

“We continue to speak with the industry body, the National Federation of Fish Friers, and other sector representatives about potential pressures as they navigate any changes.”

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