CORNWALL Council is calling on environment secretary George Eustice to 'urgently explore' help for the county's shellfish fisherman as they struggle to negotiate with rules over imports into the EU.

Since the UK left the EU at the end of last year, shellfish fisherman have struggled to get their products into the EU, as the UK is now a considered a 'third' country and subject to rules that didn't apply when the country was a member of the union.

Shellfish from class B waters, which all waters in Cornwall are, are not allowed to be exported into the EU unless they have gone through what's known as a 'depuration' process which requires large tanks and processing plants.

Tim Dwelly, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Culture, Economy and Planning, said: “We have called on the secretary of state George Eustice to urgently explore assistance for Cornwall's fish exporters, particularly those who are struggling to sell oysters, scallops and other shellfish to EU countries.

“We want an urgent intervention by Government to provide certification as well as depuration facilities. We have stressed that we will play our own part to help with this, but we need Government action to tackle the impact of Brexit on many of our exporting fishing businesses.

“Everyone involved in the industry is working hard to make sure that fisheries are getting the support they need – and I urge those who have not applied for grant support schemes to make sure they know what is available to them.

“As a council we will continue to work hard, with our partners in the industry, to make sure that fisheries get every penny of help that they are entitled to as they navigate these uncertain times.”

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The Council’s Cornwall Port Health Authority (CPHA) has worked with DEFRA to gain grant funding that has enabled Export Health Certificates to be provided at a low cost of £15 for the first few months of 2021 to help exporting businesses – and it is lobbying to extend this further into the year.

CPHA, with support from the Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (CIFCA) has also undertaken a fast-track sampling process to obtain Grade B classification for queen scallops from the Fal Fishery.

CPHA stands ready to assist shellfish processors add additional capacity to their depuration facilities.

CIFCA has also refunded a proportion of the annual licence fee for vessels working in the Fal Fishery in recognition that most have been unable to export their catch.

In addition, Cornwall Council Harbours Board has deferred the payment of mooring fees in the harbours it manages to help alleviate the impact of Covid-19 and disruption caused from the end of the EU Transition period.

Loïc Rich, chair of the Cornwall Council Harbours Board, said: “Many fishermen, together with their fishing vessels, operate out of Cornwall Council-managed ports and harbours in the Duchy; it is a huge part of our economy, heritage, and what Cornwall is all about.

“When and where we can, and as our Harbours Board has shown recently, we will try to help those who need assistance with meeting their mooring costs.”

The Council’s Economic Growth Service has established a Fisheries Stakeholder Group to make sure that policies and lobbying of central Government is informed by the sector’s experience and concerns. We continue to represent Cornwall’s priorities in numerous Government and House of Lords consultations relating to the UK Fisheries Act and the UK/EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

While various grant support schemes put in place by the Government have been welcomed, the Council has also pointed out the gaps in that support to Government ministers, which has resulted in changes that have widened the scope of such schemes.

Details on the support available from Government can be found via the following links:

Seafood Disruption Support Scheme

Seafood Response Fund

Further advice and guidance on support schemes can be accessed from via Cornwall & Isles of Scilly - Growth & Skills Hub