Exports of shellfish and crustaceans were an early victim of the reduced demand from China

The NFFO, representing the majority of English fishermen, is in talks with the UK government on options to mitigate the effects on the fishing industry of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to an NFFO statement, markets for fish and shellfish have already been badly affected – with fears that the situation will worsen.

There has been a rapid drop in demand from China, which had been a growing market for shellfish, and with cold storage of frozen nephrops already at capacity as the pandemic took hold, this will inevitably affect the market.

Whitefish prices have been dropping as the trade faces logistical barriers. Seasonal fisheries, such as cuttlefish, are expected to be hit by restrictions in Italy and France as the restaurant trade comes to a standstill.

In addition, there are concerns of how the processing sector will manage of a proportion of its workforce is infected or self-isolating.

‘In these unique and unprecedented circumstances, individual fishing businesses and producer organisations are taking their own steps to mitigate impacts by arranging shorter trips, staggering and planning landings, reducing quantities landed, in order to avoid flooding the market and triggering a price collapse,’ the NFFO stated.

In addition, scientific advice for next year’s quotas has been affected and shorter, more summary advice than usual will have to be used to inform the autumn management decisions.

‘We are in a highly dynamic situation. As the virus spreads, new impacts are becoming manifest. Evolving regulatory responses and market reactions, mean that it will be necessary to understand exactly what is happening in a rapidly changing situation,’ the NFFO said.

‘This is the context within which the form and shape of a government support package will be discussed, with a focus on keeping the sector viable during this, temporary but undoubtedly severe shock.’