THE head of Grimsby Fish Market said the port has the ability and determination to overcome whatever challenges leaving the European Union next year will throw up.
In a spirited defence of the local industry, Martyn Boyers, who is also chief executive of Grimsby Port East, called on the political establishment to start delivering on Brexit.
‘We are all becoming fed up with listening about Brexit – politicians now need to get on with it,’ Boyers said.
He was addressing a special Grimsby seminar called by the European parliament to examine what Brexit will mean for fisheries and seafood.
Among the guests was the town’s former MP, Austin Mitchell, who quit the political scene three years ago.
Boyers said the town and the industry had faced more serious crises in the past and had come through them, while other distant water ports, such as Hull and Aberdeen, had lost their fish markets.
‘The cod war (with Iceland) brought huge changes, decimating the fleet of what was then home to the largest fishing fleet in the world.
‘But it showed resilience and survived. Brexit is now something we have to deal with so we should get on with it rather than argue about what could happen.’
He said there would be challenges, but Brexit could also present fresh opportunities if it was handled in the right way.
Through companies like Young’s and Seachill, Grimsby produces the best seafood in Europe and the demand is there. Its businesses would need to set the pace because it was business, not politicians, which created jobs.
The port had a highly experienced workforce, employing between 4,500 and 5,000 in processing, and an excellent distribution system with a solid chain of buyers and sellers.
‘Economically, fishing may be low on the radar screen, but emotionally, it is top of the tree,’ he concluded.
Barry Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, told the audience that the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) had cost the British industry dearly over the past 40 years.
‘Our experience of the CFP has not been good,’ he said.
The balance had not been in Britain’s favour, with European vessels taking four times more fish from British waters than UK boats took from EU grounds.
‘The term ‘reciprocity’ has been misunderstood. It should be like Norway which negotiates quota sharing with the EU each year on an even basis and backed by science.’
He said the EU wanted to maintain the status quota after Brexit, but on their terms and without Britain having a meaningful say.
After next March, Britain would sit as an independent participant in international negotiations.
He told the audience: ‘I believe fishing is the litmus test of Brexit and will have symbolic significance.
‘From March 2019 all non-EU vessels will be excluded from UK waters and (future) access will be on our terms, like Norway. It is going to be the future for us.’