Fishermen cannot land their catch in France

GUERNSEY’S fishing industry is under imminent threat after the lifeline export market ground to a halt because of the global pandemic.

Dougal Lane at the Fish Quay. Fishermen are not able to land their catches in France due to the coronavirus. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 27492320)
Dougal Lane at the Fish Quay. Fishermen are not able to land their catches in France due to the coronavirus. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 27492320)

The problem is not that boats are not able to land their catches, the issue is that restaurants in France, Italy and Spain have closed down, which has hit the demand for seafood.

Fisherman Dougal Lane said it was very worrying.

‘The whole shellfish side of the industry has shut down, the crab and lobster boats, because the European market has crashed and, of course, the other market was China, so the market for shellfish has absolutely come to a standstill.

‘With the French having shut down all restaurants – that’s more than half the business, and the export to other countries has also shut down.

‘I believe the French auction markets, which we land to with wet fish, have apparently shut down as well.’

The coronavirus is the latest issue the local fleet has had to contend with, after the worst fishing winter on record.

Boats have not been able to work properly since October, and the main fish merchant in the Channel Islands has indicated that the current situation is likely to last at least four months.

An estimated 40 to 50 local fishermen rely on the export market, and locally there are only a few outlets that sell the local seafood.

Yesterday afternoon Mr Lane was out fishing for one of the local shops.

He predicted very difficult times ahead for the younger people in the industry.

‘The industry won’t go the wall, the people who are well established will survive, but it’s the people who have got big bank loans who are just starting up that will struggle.

‘The next stage is that we will have to get together and see whether it’s perhaps worth approaching the harbour authorities, for some relief with the moorings.

‘Our moorings are about £2,500 a year, and there’s supposed to be a relief fund that’s been talked about, but I don’t know if there have been any attempts to activate that yet.

‘I think it’s going to be longer than four months, and when it’s over nobody is going to have any money because particularly the shellfish side of the industry is a luxury product, and when this is all over I don’t think there’s going to be many restaurant customers buying luxury products.’

In the meantime, Guernsey seafood lovers are urged to buy local fish where they can.

The president of Economic Development, Deputy Charles Parkinson, took to Twitter to extol the benefits of eating local.

‘Our fishermen cannot offload their catches in France or the UK, and will be in dire straits without our support.

‘Plus, it’s delicious! Simply steamed or fried in Guernsey butter (with a touch of garlic!)’

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