UK retailers urged to reintroduce fish counters

Published on
May 6, 2020

Trade body Seafood Scotland has written to the chief executives of the some of the United Kingdom’s leading supermarket chains on behalf of the seafood sector, asking them to reopen the fresh fish counters that were closed early into the country’s COVID-19 lockdown.

A number of retailers ceased operating their in-store counters so that staff could be redeployed to keep shelves sufficiently stocked to cope with the increased demand for other foods and essential items. However, Seafood Scotland has told these companies that with international markets closed off, and the U.K. restaurant and catering sector largely shut down, the entire sector has been devastated and is now relying on retail for survival.

Only Morrisons has reopened its fresh counters in recent days to support the meat and fish sectors, it said. 

In the letter, sent to Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco, Seafood Scotland head Donna Fordyce stressed that it was “imperative” that fish counters are reopened to allow consumers access to fresh, locally-caught seafood from the domestic market as part of their essential shop.

“Once the lockdown was implemented, many of the main multiples closed their fish counters – effectively blocking a significant part of our domestic market. We understand why this happened – retail was under enormous pressure at the time, and social distancing felt like a barrier. However, we believe that the operational pressure has eased slightly as retailers and consumers alike become more used to working around social distancing in supermarkets. Morrisons has already proved it can be done,” Fordyce wrote. “It’s time for consumers to eat local, eat Scottish. We get to eat our own high quality, delicious, healthy, and sustainable seafood, so that the Scottish coastal communities can continue to operate, albeit at reduced capacity. The supermarkets are key to making this happen."

Historically, the Scottish seafood industry and its fleet of some 2,000 vessels lands around 450,000 metric tons (MT) of sea fish and shellfish, while its processing sector comprises 150 sites employing more than 13,000 people.

Pre-coronavirus, 80 percent of Scottish seafood and shellfish was exported, with the remainder going to the U.K. foodservice and retail sectors.

Seafood Scotland estimates that the pandemic’s arrival has seen the demand for these products fall by around 60 percent.

Photo courtesy of Seafood Scotland

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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