Dutch fishermen fear Brexit could sink their trade | Inquirer News

Dutch fishermen fear Brexit could sink their trade

/ 04:14 AM December 19, 2020

IJmuiden, Netherlands Fishermen in the Dutch port of IJmuiden are bringing home the last catch of the year, but if Brexit talks fail it could be their last from British waters for years to come.

As dock workers offload pallets of frozen fish from trawlers at the busy river mouth port just west of Amsterdam, a political storm is brewing that could sink their business.

The highly-charged issue of fishing rights threatens to torpedo hopes of a trade deal when the UK leaves the EU single market on January 1.


Without a deal, the Dutch will be unable to ply the British waters they have been using for centuries.


“Whether we will fish purely in European waters or British waters as well remains to be seen,” says Arnout Langerak, 47, director at the fifth-generation Cornelis Vrolijk fishing company.

“Dutch people, Dutch fishermen have been fishing there for 400 years already or even longer. We would like to do that in the next coming 400 years,” he told AFP on Friday.

‘Brits eat fish and chips’

While commercial fishing makes up a relatively small chunk of the economies of coastal nations like Britain, France, and the Netherlands, it has outsize political importance.

The fate of under-threat fishing communities like IJmuiden goes to the heart of ideas of national sovereignty and identity — and of trade.

In IJmuiden, truck after truck is being stacked with pallets of fish from the trawlers, which are landing their final catch of 2020.

Many of the ships will leave the port after Christmas to trawl for what will become the first catch of the new year, but under uncertain terms.


At the nearby Cornelis Vrolijk plant, teams of workers were gutting and cleaning a constant stream of herring, to be packed for consumption by Belgian, Dutch, and German consumers.

One major frustration for the Dutch — who love nothing more than dropping a raw herring fillet down their throats — is that the British don’t eat many of the fish that are in their own waters.

“The Brits, they eat mainly fish and chips, no herring, no mackerel, what we are used to eating. They are eating the cod,” said Langerak.

“It’s typical that they want more of the quota that they are not consuming themselves.”


The fishermen are in no doubt about the impact of a no-deal.

“Dutch freezer trawlers fish 70 percent of their catch in British waters,” says Gerard van Balsfoort, 68, President of the Dutch-based European Pelagic Freezer-trawler Association.

“A no-deal means no access. That means we lose 70 percent of our turnover for these (Dutch) companies. That is devastating.”

Pelagic freezer trawlers catch fish living near the surface of the sea such as herring, mackerel, and sardines, then freeze them to keep them fresh until they get back to port.

Britain is adamant that it will decide who gets to fish it in its waters after January 1, but Brussels wants to secure a long-term agreement guaranteeing access for EU boats.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Friday there were “just a few hours” to overcome divisions with Britain, and confirmed fishing remains the slipperiest issue.

In ports like IJmuiden where generation after generation has relied on the trade, feelings are running high, but the Dutch say they want a fair deal.

“Dutch fishermen used to fish in British waters for generations, for centuries, so they don’t want to stop doing that,” said van Balsfoort.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

“What they want is continued access to British fishing waters.”

TAGS: Brexit, Britain, Fishing, Netherlands, Politics

© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.