Park: Hands off UK fish exports Published: 12 June, 2008 Mike Park A CALL for other member states to stop interfering with Scottish and UK fish exports came today from a leading industry figure. Mike Park, executive chairman of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, who was speaking from Brussels where he is taking part in a move to win a co-ordinated approach to the fuel crisis facing Europe’s fishermen, said he was very concerned at the unfair treatment being handed out to the UK and Scottish industry.And he said he would be making it plain to his European colleagues on the European Fishing Action Group that he finds it “totally unacceptable” for Scottish fish exports to be blocked from their European market through Spanish and to an extent French action.”I can understand that feelings run high if fish imports come in from a country where fuel assistance is being paid. “But we are talking about the UK where no assistance is available on fuel from the Government, which makes action against us totally unfair.”Mr Park said the moves to block Scottish and UK trade were already depressing prices for species such as megrim and hake and cold stores were starting to fill up, given that fish exports could not be guaranteed to get to their destinations.Jim Portus, Chief Executive of the South Western Fish Producer Organisation and Chairman of the UK Association of Fish Producer Organisations was also at the Brussels meeting today today and said the action group would meet again in in three weeks.He added “The industry in the South West of the UK , as elsewhere, is at its wits end. The price of fuel has gone up inexorably, rising this year alone from 35p per litre at Christmas 2007 to 58p today. Fuel has never been more expensive, yet the price paid for fish at auction has gone down in the same period. Weve got to get help now; otherwise many businesses will simply tie up until there are better prospects. After the last major crisis in 2000, we lost nearly 10% of businesses gone bust. Since then, however, weve deliberately restructured the fleet to the minimum acceptable in Brussels in terms of fishing effort and catching capacity. There is no surplus and ports cant afford to lose throughput. This is crunch time and Im worried no-one is listening.If local producers do tie up, then consumers will only have fish of lower quality and lower value on the shelves, from outside of the EU. They should not have to settle for anything less than the best that Westcountry producers could provide.”He said the next meeting of EFAG will attract delegates from all over the EU.”This is a pan-European problem with solutions to be found here, in the centre of EU power.In earlier campaigns,EFAG organised successful blockades in Boulogne , Zeebrugge and elsewhere.”Westcountry trawlermen have done their best to minimise the use of fuel oil by modifying their gear to make it easier to tow through the water, which is beneficial to the seabed as well as reducing their carbon footprint. Further reducing their fuel burden would have an inevitable impact on their method of catching fish and the species caught, which would have far reaching consequences in the fish markets and to consumers that could not be achieved without government support, even during good financial circumstances which clearly these are not.” Todays meeting also finalised arrangements for a protest to take place in Luxembourg on June 23.www.fishupdate.com is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.