- Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn
The number of people employed in the UK fishing industry is officially falling and so too is the quantity of fish being landed in the UK.
While prices are up, there is still concern amongst many in the industry about how much value the UK derives from its own fleet and fish quota.
Figures exclusively leaked to ITV News show publicly for the first time precisely how little benefit the UK gains from some of its own fishing fleet.
The data suggests that more than £230 million, or 2,700 jobs, could be added to the industry if rules were tightened - forcing trawlers to land and more catch here.
Many “British” boats are foreign owned and, as the statistics show, some of these never land a single fish in the UK.
The details cast light on an area of the fishing industry that many describe as a “farce”.
When foreign owned trawlers go to sea under a British flag, catching British quota, they do so using a flag of convenience. The rules state they should have an ‘economic link’ to this country, but many argue it does not amount to much.
ITV News travelled to the port of IJumiden in Holland to witness the Hull-registered and Dutch-owned Cornelis Vrolijk landing tens of thousands of boxes of frozen fish.
In 2015, the statistics show that the value of her landed catch was £19 million (40 thousand tonnes), all of it landed in the Netherlands, but nothing in Britain.
Value of the fish landed is a small part of the picture as there is also the upstream and downstream activity based around her in Holland that delivers little, if any value, to the UK.
Engineers, transport, office staff, sales…most of this takes place in Holland. And while she is officially based in the UK, employing some British crew and paying taxes here, the reality is that the Dutch economy benefits far more from her activity than the UK.
The Scottish Government are already consulting on plans to improve the benefit to their economy by forcing trawlers to land more of their catch in Scotland, but so far nothing is formally happening in England - although it is being reviewed, says the government
Analysis of the data leaked to ITV News suggests that if 32 of the most economically active vessels in the UK fleet had landed a minimum of 50% of their catch in the UK it would add an additional £235 million in economic activity in the sector through upstream and downstream activity.
This could amount to 2,700 jobs or £89 million in added UK gross domestic product.
The Dutch admit they are ‘worried’. A UK-wide review of the economic link added to Brexit negotiations mean Holland already fears a loss of business.
Don’t expect them to give up without a fight as it is clear that battle lines are already being drawn.