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Ambassadorial praise for seafood cluster team after Brexit hit Bergen

BREXIT was a key subject in Bergen with Grimsby playing a leading role in proceedings at the North Atlantic Seafood Forum. 

Ambassadorial praise for seafood cluster team after Brexit hit Bergen

Nearly 1,000 delegates attended the world’s largest industry conference, with the UK ambassador to Norway, Sarah Gillett, joining a Seafish-sponsored lunch with 70 guests.

She was encouraged by what she had heard from the strong cluster turn-out across the North Sea, with seafood a crucial trade.

The ambassador said: “I greatly enjoyed being invited to address the NASF’s industry lunch, as well as meet with representatives from the seafood sector to hear their views on the UK’s future outside of the EU. 

“While EU exit undoubtedly brings challenges, it also brings many opportunities which the Grimsby seafood cluster are clearly preparing well for.” 

Prior to the lunch, at which Seafish chief executive Marcus Coleman also spoke, a Brexit workshop had been held, with 60 leading seafood executives from the UK, Europe and Scandinavia, organised by Grimsby-based industry figures Simon Dwyer and Mike Mitchell. 

As extensively reported, freedom of movement of labour and product are central to concerns for processors, with recent research showing a third of workers in the area’s seafood industry are from Europe, a far higher reliance than an earlier snapshot of 17 per cent had suggested.  With a focus on control of waters, quota and stocks for fishing, the industry itself has a task to get the ask right, made more complex by suggestions from the Prime Minister that access to UK waters could be a key negotiating card. 

Mr Mitchell, who after years working at director level for Young’s Seafood now has his own Fair Seas consultancy, said: “There was recognition that the Brexit process is about to move into an important negotiation phase, but that it is still too early to be able to predict the potential outcome with any degree of certainty.

“The workshop aimed to ensure that seafood industry leaders have a well-informed and shared understanding of the Brexit political process and its timelines, with a focus on two aspects of Brexit as it may impact on seafood trade and fisheries, in two separate panels, each with expert keynote addresses and speakers.”

Andrew Kuyk represented the Seafood Industry Alliance, with a key note address on trade, with Andrew Oliver, partner at Hull-based law firm Andrew Jackson focusing on fishing.

Nigel Edwards, technical and corporate social responsibility director at Grimsby’s Seachill, was part of the trade panel.

Reflecting on the lunch with the ambassador, who has been in her Oslo-based role for four years, Mr Mitchell said: “A number of Grimsby based seafood executives were also able to hold a private meeting with the Ambassador to discuss matters and concerns relating to seafood trade. 

“The meeting was a useful and valuable opportunity to raise awareness of trade related issues that may have future impacts on Humber bank seafood processing businesses once the UK loses access to current EU free trade arrangements with Norway and other European Free Trade Area nations such as Iceland.”

Mr Dwyer, who is managing director of Seafox, and acts as the secretariat for Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association, said there was a strong possibility that the event would be held again next year, with the same speakers to talk through any progress made. 

He said: “The attendees appreciated they had heard some hard facts about the process, both on trade and fisheries. 

“The speaker line-up was well received by everybody and there were positive comments about the work and what was shared.

“It was an opportunity for us to get our message over about our key concerns, about tariffs, trade and logistics of chilled products. There was great representation from Grimsby.”

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