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Commercial Fishing



Scottish inshore fishing businesses under threat unless rethink on worker rules. Obtaining access to labour is a key a problem for the West coast of Scotland inshore fishing industry, which could result in the demise of many businesses, Elaine Whyte, executive secretary of the Clyde Fishermen’s Association (CFA) has told Fish Focus.

There is particular inflexibility for boats fishing inside the 12 nautical mile limit where foreign labour requirements fall into the Skilled Worker Visa (SWV) requirement category.  This has been further compounded by recent changes to immigration rules, particularly the substantial increase in the SWV salary threshold and the associated legal and processing costs entailed.

There are also concerns related to level of English language requirements for skilled workers and the associated testing costs.

“Of course, we expect our fishing industry to give non-UK crews fair conditions and rates of remuneration, but all the additional costs time and resource involved in gaining access to such labour makes it very challenging for small-vessel inshore operators already struggling to survive,” says Elaine Whyte.

Although fishing presents excellent career opportunities, it is frequently not regarded as an attractive employment option by many UK youngsters.  In addition, many coastal rural areas have depopulation and aging populations, and against this challenging background, accessing foreign labour is crucial for the future wellbeing of the Scottish inshore fishing fleet.

“Attracting crew is a perennial problem for inshore fishermen and we urge the UK Government to adopt a common sense approach that meets the specific needs of our sector,” said Elaine Whyte.

“Unless such there is a change in policy I foresee many fishing business may no longer be able to continue, some have already been lost, and this is why a different approach is so urgently needed.”

A similar problem is being faced by the onshore seafood processing sector, and earlier this month, Jimmy Buchan, CEO of the Scottish Seafood Association, told Fish Focus that UK Ministers were simply not listening to seafood industry concerns.

“The seafood processing sector is finding it hard enough to retain people, yet alone attract new entrants to the industry, and the Government Skilled Worker Visa proposal is completely incomprehensible,” he said.

A recently published economic impact assessment of the proposal by Seafish stated that the seafood sector is heavily reliant on non-UK labour across both catching and processing sectors. Any changes to the cost and complexity of accessing non-UK labour would have an impact on operating costs, and on business profitability and viability. There would also be knock-on impacts to consumer prices, to the competitiveness of UK export trade, and to businesses that support the seafood sector.

Photo credit: Clyde Fishermen’s Association