Family-run business risks losing £50,000 worth of shellfish after Brexit delays at French border

150121 Shellfish business

A fourth-generation shellfish wholesaler has sent £50,000-worth of fish to France and is in danger of having to write-off the whole load due to a paperwork anomaly.Nerys Edwards, who runs her business alongside her daughter and two sons, said their future was hanging in the balance after the lorry load of lobsters, prawns and crabs was delayed for more than 30 hours on a lorry to Spain.Ms Edwards owns Syren Shellfish, which exports shellfish from Welsh fishermen, and had sent the lorry from Pembrokeshire to the continent via Portsmouth.But new border rules - brought in as part of the UK's new relationship with the European Union - stopped the lorry in the French port of Caen and is not being allowed to carry on until Ms Edwards resubmits paperwork.Ms Edwards is now counting the cost and said: "The shellfish is dying while it sits in Caen."

She and daughter Lisa have spent two years preparing to export into the EU after Brexit and both thought they were fully up to date with all the paperwork requirements. She had already paid £48,000 to a group of 25 Welsh fishers.She even found herself in a car park in Narberth finalising the paperwork with a health officer at midnight just hours before the lorry left for Portsmouth.Even so, issues at the border meant the consignment was stuck in Portsmouth for 24 hours before it crossed to France where it was held by French customs for another seven. There would certainly be some mortality of the shellfish, she said.Ms Edwards said she was not confident that every document was correct and the worry and stress had caused sleepless nights. She claimed the importer in France had made a mistake on the document that he needed to complete.Her family and her parents before her have been sending live shellfish to Spanish customers every week, but she says she is feeling "exceedingly unimportant" as the authorities try to make Brexit work."The powers that be should have been able to give us guidance," she said."We've had no opportunity to practice. Not even a week to practice and implement these new rules."I'm exhausted and ready to jack it in. I can't keep up with the stress of this again."I can't do this again next week, I need a break."The 53-year-old businesswoman took on the wholesale business after her parents, who started exporting shellfish to the continent in an old horsebox.Until January 1, when the new trading deal came into effect, nearly all Welsh shellfish was being exported to the EU. But the industry relies on being able to export to the continent as quickly as possible to keep the produce alive.The shellfish industry in Wales is relatively small but it is an important part of many communities and the new border rules are a "major glitch" for those coastal communities, said Ms Edwards.The shellfish industry pumps around £13.3m into the Welsh economy, while the mussel industry injects a further £10.7m.Ms Edwards said it was not only her business affected and other lorries waiting for the ferry crossing had also been refused.The UK government says it is in close contact with the industry to address any issues.However, Ms Edwards said the current situation would "cripple" her business and many fishers had been told to tie up next week.