Stop importing £200m worth of cod and haddock from Russia says former Army officer and UK Fisheries boss

£200m worth of Russian cod and haddock imports should be stopped and efforts redoubled to open up fishing grounds off Norway and Greenland to the UK’s last distant water trawler Kirkella.

Sir Barney White-Spunner, retired British Army officer and chairman of the advisory board of UK Fisheries, which operates the trawler said money currently going to Russia “should be kept here at home, benefiting jobs and investment in the North East and not Putin’s Tsarist ambitions”.

The Hull trawler has had to cut crew numbers in the past two years, reflecting her plummeting quotas - a result of unfavourable deals struck by the UK Government, operating as independent coastal state.

UK Fisheries lost around half of its usual cod catch as a result of a “derisory” deal with Norway last year and warned that Kirkella - reported to be fishing over the weekend off Svalbard in the Barents Sea - may have to be sold.

Kirkella reported to be fishing off Svalbard Picture: UK Fisheries

Sir Barney, a former Commander of the British Field Army, writing in The Yorkshire Post, said there was an “obvious and immediate opportunity that we can and must take that could deprive Russia of a valuable source of hard currency while benefiting the beleaguered fishermen of the Humber region”.

He said the Government should stop imports of around 20,000 tonnes of frozen whitefish fillets from Russia and UK negotiators should redouble efforts to secure good access to Greenland’s fishing grounds in the current talks.

He said: "While we are, due to treaty arrangements that are almost 100 years old, still able to fish off Svalbard, this represents only about a third of Kirkella’s theoretical annual capacity – and you can’t run a business on that.

"It would seem simple good sense for our negotiators to be making every effort – right now – to secure good access to Greenland’s waters for UK vessels so that we can reduce or eliminate our reliance on Russian fish.

"To do that, all they will have to do is offer tariff-free access to the UK market for Greenland’s exports of shrimp. This is an important part of their economy, and we know they would listen."

He said a "fair deal" with Norway was vital.

"Once again, Norway’s fisheries exports to the UK are worth hundreds of millions of pounds each year, most of which attracts no import tariffs whatsoever.

"And yet UK vessels have, since Brexit, effectively been banned from their waters. In the next round of negotiations, the UK must not simply sell our crews and their families short as they have done in the past.

"The £200m we are currently sending to Russia should be kept here at home, benefiting jobs and investment in the North East and not Putin’s Tsarist ambitions."