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Grimsby seafood sector fears impact from haddock, cod quota cuts

UK's main processing hub looks to find ways around sharp reductions by increasing imports from other suppliers where it can.

Grimsby's fish merchants and the processing sector have been left sweating the outcome of last week's haddock quota catch reductions in Iceland and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea's recommendations for cod in the North Sea.

On Thursday Iceland’s Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture announced it is increasing cod quotas by 3 percent next year, in line with scientific advice from the Marine Research Institute (MRI).

From Sept. 1 the total allowable catch (TAC) for haddock will be reduced by 28 percent, to 40,723 metric tons, although cod catch quotas will increase by 3 percent, from 264,437 metric tons to 272,411 metric tons.

A day later ICES recommended a total allowable catch (TAC) limit of 10,457 metric tons in the North Sea cod fishery for 2020.

Challenging period

ICES' recommendation is a 63 percent cut from last year’s recommendation of 28,803 metric tons, and a 70 percent cut from last year’s quota of 35,357 metric tons.

For Grimsby, on the northeast coast of England, where processors, fish and chip shops, smokers and retail buyers come to source big volumes of seafood, developments are particularly disconcerting in relation to haddock, which accounts for about half the fish supplied to the market.

“I think it's going to be a challenging period going forward,” Martyn Boyers, chief executive of Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises, which operates the fish market told IntraFish.

While fishing quotas frequently fluctuate from year to year in line with scientific advice, businesses built up through the years have always relied on sales volumes. To get the combination right to be able to secure the volume and sustain the business will be tricky after the cuts, Boyers said.

"We are one of the businesses that will be under pressure because we are volume based," Boyers said.

Automatic price rises?

For Simon Dwyer, secretariat of Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association, the fact that quotas are near back to where they were two years ago does not automatically mean price rises are a foregone conclusion.

"The biggest challenge for price is the rate of exchange, irrespective of volume. That might balance off post-Brexit," he said.

The Grimsby industry will be hoping it can make up for haddock cuts by buying in from Norway and the Faroe islands.

At the same time Dwyer said he is not "overly concerned" that the local processing industry will be affected in terms of cod supplies for production lines.

“Whilst it might tighten the supply a little bit and obviously won't be good news for the catching sector in Scotland, we will probably find our cod supplies from the normal sources that we have in Iceland Norway and the Faroe Islands,” he said.

For Patrick Salmon, owner of high end haddock smoker Alfred Enderby who represents a small tight-knit community of salmon and whitefish smokers in Grimsby, the potential fallout from the quota cuts is unclear.

“We didn’t see any real impact in the quota increase of 30 percent [last year] so whether or not we’d see a big impact with a decrease I’m not entirely certain," Salmon said.

Besides haddock and cod, salmon is the other the main species processed in Grimsby. As well as serving the fish and chip shop sector all three fish types go into ready meals in second processing.

All the major supermarkets source cod and haddock from Grimsby. This is predominantly handled by Young’s, Seachill, Morrisons and New England Seafood in a region with some 30 processing companies.

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