UK shellfish sector hit with EU ban

Published on
February 5, 2021

The European Union has put a stop to the import of live bivalve mollusks from the United Kingdom that are not ready for human consumption, plunging the country’s shellfish sector into further uncertainty.

The measure follows on the heels of the challenges caused by new post-Brexit border rules. Historically, U.K. shellfish producers have exported millions of pounds of mussels, scallops, oysters, and other products into E.U. member-states. However, as the U.K. is now a separate country and subject to strict hygiene rules, it is no longer allowed to transport these animals to the E.U. unless they have already been treated in purification plants.

Live bivalve mollusks that are ready for human consumption – such as those from Class A waters or depurated in the U.K. – can continue to be exported to the E.U., but there are few Class A waters in the country. Most mollusks in the U.K. are harvested from Class B waters and must therefore be depurated before they are seen as fit for human consumption, but the country is lacking in such infrastructure.

Until this year, these bivalves could be purified in tanks once they reached their destination. The E.U.’s ban applies to both wild-caught and farmed shellfish.

Meanwhile, the U.K. government’s plan for a so-called “Blue Belt” of marine protected areas (MPAs) around the country’s seas has begun with the Marine Management Organisation’s (MMO) formal consultation to protect four of England’s 40 offshore MPAs. These MPAs include Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation; Inner Dowsing, Race Bank, and North Ridge Special Area of Conservation; South Dorset Marine Conservation Zone; and the Canyons Marine Conservation Zone.

According to the MMO, these first MPAs were chosen as a priority to help protect their productive undersea environments. The Dogger Bank Special Area of Conservation also has the largest shallow sandbank in British waters and supports commercial fish species such cod and plaice.

The consultation runs to 28 March, 2021, and follows a call for evidence, which closed in December 2020, where the MMO sought additional evidence and views on the draft assessments and management options for the four areas.

Photo courtesy of MACH Photos/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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