Stormy waters ahead? Cornwall’s fishing industry post Brexit

Cornwall’s fishing industry may be left out in the cold, after PM Theresa May promises Brexit negotiations are on track for the end of March.

The fishing industry is an integral part of Cornwall’s trade, as well as its rich history. However, it now faces a hesitant future as a consequence of the Brexit vote.

The region was on course to benefit from £2.5 billion from European Union funding between 2000 and 2020. Despite this, the majority of Cornwall voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd 2016.

Many of Britain’s 12,000 fishermen strongly reinforced the “leave” vote in June’s referendum. Britain’s fishing industry contributes to an overall £420 million of the country’s income. Although this may sound like a hefty figure, it calculates to only 0.5% of the UK’s overall Gross Domestic Product.


Buyers inspect the daily catch. While in the market, everyone is asked to wear a hat and overalls.

Contrast that with figures from the farming sector, which pays almost £10 billion into the UK economy and employs over 465,000. The House of Lords have now warned that the industry could be of little priority for the UK government in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

Many people from the fishing community claim that Brexit offers the industry the opportunity to recover some control over the seas surrounding the UK and potentially allow the UK to become a leading fish-exporting nation similar to Norway.

Craig Tomkin, an exporter from Cornish Fish Company, said: “I’ve been exporting for about 25 years and the industry has changed a lot. These days the quantity is a lot less but the prices are a lot higher but the quality is also a lot better too.

“We’ve been through a very turbulent time, a lot of boats were being commissioned and quotes were very very low, people weren’t really making any money.”

Despite the reasons for leaving, it now seems little is known about the government’s over all plans for the industry’s future prospects.

When questioned about the future for the fishing industry, he added: “We don’t know, and whoever says they do is a liar. Until negotiations take place we have no idea.

“Although I can’t see why we cant have an agreement to just trade, I think the politicians are making it difficult for the sake of making it difficult.”

final squid
Crates of squid wait to be loaded onto lorries and distributed across the UK and Europe.

Nevertheless, the biggest market for Cornish fishermen remains to be the European Union, with nearly 80% of all catches exported and sold throughout the continent.

Like for so many UK residents, Brexit has shrouded the future with uncertinty. However, speaking to some of those closest to the fishing industry, they appear steadfast in their aims to keep the future of British fishing prosperous.

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