Hull trawler sold to Greenlandic fishing interests as owners blame Government 'failure' in post-Brexit negotiations

Brexit hasn't been rewarding for either Hull-registered Norma Mary or Kirkella which is based in the city Picture Jonathan GawthorpeBrexit hasn't been rewarding for either Hull-registered Norma Mary or Kirkella which is based in the city Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
Brexit hasn't been rewarding for either Hull-registered Norma Mary or Kirkella which is based in the city Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe
The sale of a Hull-registered trawler, with the loss of 25 local jobs, to Greenland, has been described as “a foretaste of what might happen to other distant-waters vessels” if the government does not change course.

The Icelandic owners of Norma Mary have sold the 32-year-old trawler, mainly crewed by fishermen from Hull and Grimsby, to Greenlandic fishing interests, blaming “the Government’s failure to negotiate fishing opportunities”.

News of the sale emerged as Hull West and Hessle MP Emma Hardy told the Commons on Thursday that the country had been promised a “‘sea of opportunity’” that turned out to be no more than a stagnant millpond”.

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Ms Hardy, who had secured the debate, accused the Government and Environment Secretary George Eustice of sitting back “as a whole industry slowly sinks”.

Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis Credit: Chris McAndrew / UK ParliamentFisheries Minister Victoria Prentis Credit: Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament
Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis Credit: Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament

It comes weeks after the Government ended talks without a deal which would allow the UK to fish in Norwegian sub-Arctic waters.

It meant the £52m Hull-based Kirkella - operated by a British company that is a joint venture between Samherji and Parlevliet & Van der Plas - is starved of a key fishing ground.

As well as around 100 direct jobs, hundreds more were employed in the supply chain.

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Ms Hardy said the UK’s once proud distant-waters fleet had been “holed below the waterline by a government that has abjectly failed to secure a single fisheries deal with any of its northern coastal neighbours”.

Hull-based ice-class distant waters trawlerHull-based ice-class distant waters trawler
Hull-based ice-class distant waters trawler

Kirkella caught around right per cent about eight per cent of all the fish sold in the UK’s fish and chip shops.

The MP said with no deals struck with either Norway or Greenland, British-caught cod “will be lost to us, only to be replaced by the self-same fish, caught by Norway and exported tariff-free into the UK market.”

And she added that many MPs would reflect “on how tragic it is” that the Government could not even keep a small part of the “British national dish”.

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However Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis defended the Government’s stance and said Norway landed from UK waters eight times the value of what the UK landed from Norwegian waters, with an even bigger differential of 21 times for the Faroese.

The total effective deficit to the UK was £218m to Norway and £24m to the Faroes.

She said the government was not willing to “give away valuable access to our waters for free”, adding: “A deal acceptable to Norway that would have retained some of this real imbalance would have not been in our national interest.”

Greenland, meanwhile was paid some 16.5m Euros, by the EU, for access to her waters.

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Ms Prentis said: "The House must understand that there is difficulty in replicating the arrangements that the EU has with Greenland.

"It would doubtless involve a direct payment of taxpayers' money that would benefit private companies who catch the quota.

"I don't see us wanting to go down that route."

The Minister said they believed around 30 crew are still being employed on the Kirkella, which still had “significant” fishing opportunities off Svalbard.

Environment Secretary George Eustice had written to his Norwegian counterpart expressing “his desire to work very closely with Norway this year and looking forward to the formal start of negotiations in September for 2022”.

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A spokesman for Samherji said the sale of Norma Mary was “devastating news” for the crew.

He added: “"Due to the UK government's failure to negotiate fishing opportunities for Norma Mary, we have reluctantly been forced to sell her to Greenlandic fishing interests

"We know that there are opportunities that could have saved Norma Mary for the UK fleet, and it now imperative that Defra opens talks with Norway, Greenland and others to secure them.

"If it does so we will bring in another vessel and, we hope, offer new opportunities to the crewmen who are now out of work."

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Fiona Nicholls, an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said the UK’s fishing industry had been left "high and dry" following Brexit, and the loss of 25 more jobs in Hull and Grimsby is "absolutely not good news".

However she added: "It’s also not good news that the Norma Mary, a destructive industrial bottom trawler, will continue plying its trade elsewhere.

"Industrial bottom trawlers rip up seabed habitats which underpin the entire marine ecosystem, indiscriminately catch unimaginably large quantities of marine life and disturb the vast stores of carbon in the deep oceans, which otherwise would remain safely in the seabed, worsening the climate emergency.

"Bottom trawling is one of the most destructive fishing practices, and the fact that it’s still allowed to continue in UK protected areas is frankly ridiculous. The UK government must prioritise getting ocean protection done.”

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