Brexit: Dorset seafood exporter warns of 'end of the industry'

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Image caption,
Charlie Samways has written to MPs highlighting problems with seafood exports

The "end of the seafood industry" on the south coast of England could be caused by post-Brexit export problems, a Dorset fish merchant has said.

Charlie Samways said extra paperwork and IT issues mean perishable seafood exports from West Bay were taking twice as long to reach customers in the EU.

UK exports must pass new checks because it is classed as a "third country" outside the European Customs Union.

The government said it was in contact with the industry to address issues.

Mr Samways, whose family has operated in West Bay for 60 years, buys seafood from 150 local fishermen, much of which is exported to customers in France, Spain and Italy.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Samways' firm buys produce from fishing crews which operate in Lyme Bay

He said goods were taking up to 48 hours to reach customers, while his previous promise had been "port to plate in 24 hours".

"The majority of our seafood is exported - if customers don't feel confident, those markets will come to a halt and it will be devastating to local fishermen," he said.

"If no action is taken this may well be the last weeks of the UK seafood industry as we know it - it simply can't be allowed to happen."

Mr Samways has written to MPs highlighting issues with commodity checks not being recognised, IT issues and delays at the French border.

Dorset West MP Chris Loder said new trading arrangements had "teething troubles".

"Overall we are on the right pathway of taking full control of our waters and for our UK fishing industry to thrive as it should have done many years ago," he added.

In a statement, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "We are working closely with the industry to help understand and address the issues they are experiencing."

In 2019, the UK fishing industry exported more than 333,000 tonnes of fish to the EU. That accounts for nearly half of the total catch of the UK fishing fleet and roughly three quarters of total fish exports from the UK.

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