Russian trade ban fails to hinder UK mackerel export growth

Published on
March 30, 2015

U.K. mackerel (Scomber scombrus) exports increased 44 percent between August and December last year, despite strong fears in the industry about the impact of the embargo placed by Russia on food imports.

The United Kingdom’s mackerel sector was put at risk by the year-long ban imposed on imports from the EU, North America and some other Western countries by President Vladimir Putin last August. In 2013, the United Kingdom exported GBP 16 million (EUR 21.9 million; USD 23.8 million) worth of the pelagic fish to the Russian market, which is the single-biggest importer of pelagic fish in the world.

However, U.K. exports to Nigeria grew by almost GBP 17 million (EUR 23.2 million; USD 25.3 million) between August and December 2014, compared to the same period in 2013. In addition, its exports to China increased by nearly GBP 5 million (EUR 6.8 million; USD 7.4 million) during the same period.

Overall, U.K. mackerel exports increased by GBP 29 million (EUR 39.6 million; USD 43.1 million) to GBP 115 million (EUR 157.1 million; USD 171 million) in 2014.

When the Russian ban was introduced, U.K. Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss traveled to Peterhead, Scotland, to hear industry concerns, pledging to support businesses and promote greater trade elsewhere.

With landings worth around GBP 90 million (EUR 122.9 million; USD 133.9 million) annually, mackerel is the most valuable species for the Scottish fishing fleet. At the same time, Russia has been buying Scottish mackerel and herring for more than 100 years. Thirty years ago, it was Scotland’s only overseas market for the species.

Last autumn, the U.K. government led on negotiations to promote mackerel to Asian buyers. Officials also met with the Nigerian government to reduce import restrictions that hinder EU businesses exporting fish into the country.

“We took swift, decisive action to balance the impact of the ban and have now seen growth in mackerel exports to key markets. This is great news for our fishermen and shows when it comes to quality produce, Scotland and the rest of the UK are leading the pack,” said Truss.

The U.K. government also secured a change to EU law that allowed mackerel and herring fishermen to “bank” a higher proportion of their fishing quota in 2014 to be used in 2015. The EU Fisheries Council agreed to bank 25 percent of 2014 quota — up from the standard 10 percent — and roll it over for use in 2015, leading to greater stability for fishermen.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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