Coronavirus: Fishing industry in crisis as exports collapse

JERSEY’S fishing industry is under imminent threat after its lifeline export market ground to a halt amid the coronavirus crisis.

Don Thompson
Don Thompson

Jersey’s largest fish exporter, Aqua-Mar, has ‘closed its doors’ to local fisherman and said it cannot buy any stock due to import lockdowns in Italy and restrictions in Spain – two major buyers – that are due to last for at least the next two weeks.

Buyers in France are so sceptical about the imminent future that they are also reluctant to buy, said Aqua-Mar manager Natalie Porritt.

Almost none of the Island’s fishing fleet left the Harbour yesterday, according to Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, who described the latest development as a ‘major crisis’.

‘The coronavirus is now the latest issue the fleet have to contend with after issues with slow progress on the Granville Bay Treaty and declining fishing stocks and the weather. Fishing has been suffering for some time and it has been four or five months since we were working at a viable level,’ he said.

‘This is huge. Boats are going to be tied up. I would urge people now to buy local fish where they can. It cannot sustain the whole fleet but it might get one or two boats out there.’

Last year, Aqua-Mar landed more than 398,000kg of shellfish such as lobster and crab. They are supplied by 25 fishermen.

Mrs Porritt said 80% of Jersey’s shellfish was exported. She added: ‘Italy has stopped all imports, there are restrictions in Spain and France is just not buying anything because they are so concerned about what is happening and are not sure if they will be able to sell it. It’s the first time ever we have turned around and said “We cannot buy anything” and have closed our doors.’

Aqua-Mar employs eight staff.

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