Written evidence submitted by Sir Barney White-Spunner, Chairman Advisory Board, and Jane Sandell, Chief Executive, of UK Fisheries Ltd (FS0007)


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee


EFRA Food Security Enquiry



22 September 2022

Written evidence submitted by Sir Barney White-Spunner, Chairman Advisory Board, and Jane Sandell, Chief Executive, of UK Fisheries Ltd.

Executive Summary


As the call for evidence states: “the UK food supply chains are experiencing disruption caused by a range of factors, including the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, labour shortages, the UK’s relationship with the EU, and increasing energy and fertiliser prices.


Clearly, the Government has variable levels of control of these factors, but UK Fisheries believes DEFRA could take simple steps regarding the distant fishing fleet which would have a material impact on UK food security:






About UK Fisheries and the distant fishing fleet


UK Fisheries is the Hull-based company that effectively operates what is left of the UK’s distant fishing fleet. The modern British distant waters fishing fleet has a proud history, catching cod and haddock off Norway and Greenland for the nation’s fish and chip shops where it has been, until quite recently, responsible for one in ten portions. These are caught by Kirkella, the UK’s leading freezer trawler, a state-of-the-art vessel catching around 12 tonnes of fish per haul and using crew based in Hull.


Cod and haddock are the UK’s favourite fish, but even without the issues raised by this inquiry, the UK doesn’t have anywhere near enough resource in its own waters to satisfy demand so the bulk of the remaining portions served in British chippies has been imported from Norway, Iceland, Russia and Greenland.


Since the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the resultant sanctions and extra tariffs have created a scarcity for the UK’s supply chain.  While in the last two years the results of negotiations with Norway, in particular, for continued access to their waters for the UK have been a disaster for the fleet.  For 2022 the UK has been allocated only 500 tonnes of cod in Norwegian waters and 6,500 tonnes around Svalbard.  The UK has also lost fishing opportunities in NAFO (Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation) and has no longer any quotas in Greenland. Therefore, the total available cod in distant waters for 2022 is 7,000 tonnes compared with a total of 19,500 in 2018. We include further details in this submission.


If the Government were to use the UK’s trade muscle more effectively, particularly with Norway, it could ensure a return to the previous levels of fish at a moment of concern for food supply.


As well as that it would also underpin much needed jobs and investment in the North-East and ensure the survival of an industry that has fed our country for decades.


Whitefish availability and supply on the UK market


Availability and Supply


Since 2018 the quantity of UK caught cod and haddock has dramatically decreased. In 2018 UK vessels landed a total of 34,600 tonnes of cod compared with 24,700 tonnes in 2020. For haddock the same figures are 35,700 tonnes compared to 28,900 tonnes in 2020.


One of the major reasons for this fall is the failure of the UK Government to agree satisfactory fisheries agreements with Norway. Prior to 2019 the UK enjoyed access to catch those species in the waters of Northern Norway under previous EU agreements.


The consequence has been greatly increased imports of cod and haddock from Norway, Russia, Iceland and Faroe Islands.


Norway, in particular, has been reporting record prices for its seafood exports. Exports of frozen cod to the UK increased by 43% by May this year.




The price of cod and haddock on the UK market has greatly increased in the same time period due in part to the reduced amount caught by UK vessels and crews. The average price of cod caught by UK vessels in June 2022 was £3,721 per tonne compared with £2,162 in June 2019.


Leaving the EU, the war in Ukraine and the general increase in the cost of living have clearly contributed to this increase but the opportunity to catch significant quantities of cod and haddock in Norwegian waters is a major element that the UK Government has the possibility to control.




A direct consequence of the lack of reasonable agreement with Norway has been a serious impact on what remains of the UK distant waters fishing fleet which since 2019 has seen its quotas halved to around 7,000 tonnes. This has seen the fleet reduced to just one vessel with consequent hardship for the crew, ancillary industries and Humberside more generally. This fleet traditionally supplied one in ten of the portions sold in fish and chip shops.


As a result, prices for our traditional fish and chip shops have increased dramatically and supplies much more difficult to access. According to some reports the price of cod and haddock has increased by 75% in a year. One-third of fish and chip shops are said to be in danger of going broke.


The imposition of import duties on seafood from Russia has exacerbated this situation.


Meanwhile, refusing access to our historic fishing grounds is a double win for other countries, and Norway in particular. They get to fish our quotas and then take our niche in the UK market by selling us the same fish.