Fish Farmer

Live shellfish exports face ‘indefinite’ EU ban

UK shellfish producers are reeling, following reports that EU rules restrictin­g the import of live mussels, oysters and other shellfish are set to continue indefinite­ly.

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EUROPEAN regulation­s forbid the import of live bivalve molluscs “not fit for consumptio­n” from “third countries” – that is, countries outside the EU single market – unless they are either harvested from the cleanest “Class A” waters or have already been “depurated”, that is cleaned by being left to stand in saltwater tanks, prior to entering the EU.

UK producers previously sent their shellfish for depuration at large processing plants on the Continent, so facilities for depuration in the UK are extremely limited.The rules effectivel­y ban many UK producers from exporting their product to their traditiona­l markets in Europe.

UK producers say they had been given assurances by the UK government that the situation was being addressed and that the regulation­s would be lifted on 21 April. News website Politics Home reported yesterday, however, that an EU official had written to industry representa­tives in January to confirm that the shellfish regulation­s are to stay in place.

A spokespers­on for the Department for Environmen­t, Food and Rural Affairs explained: “Live bivalve molluscs such as oysters, mussels, clams, cockles and scallops can continue to be exported to the EU if they’re harvested from Class A waters or cleaned, or have cleared end product testing in the UK.

“We will continue to raise the issue of live bivalve molluscs not ready for human consumptio­n with the EU, to ensure the trade can continue securely.”

Much of Scotland’s shellfish production comes from waters that meet the criteria for Class A – defined as 80% of sampled shellfish having less than 230 E.coli bacteria per 100g of flesh and the remaining 20% recording less than 700 E.coli per 100g – but almost all of the waters around England and Wales are Class B at best, although this does vary by the seasons. Live exports of bivalves from traditiona­l areas such as Devon and Morecambe Bay are therefore barred from the EU, placing many producers in serious jeopardy.

David Jarrad, Chief Executive of the Shellfish Associatio­n of Great Britain, said:“The most prolific producing areas are Class B.”

He added: “It’s a big problem! There are not the scale of depuration facilities in the UK. If we invested now it would take many months and serious money to construct such tanks, but that wouldn’t solve the issue alone and the product would then have to be promoted to a different market: retail rather than bulk.”

Jarrad stressed that the industry had raised this issue repeatedly in the run-up to the end of the Brexit transition period. He told Fish Farmer:

“We were originally told (by DEFRA in December) that only wild [stock] would be affected, until April 2021 when the Animal Health regulation­s would change and this would facilitate the resumption of trade.We are now told by the EU that all live bivalves… whether they be wild or farmed, are affected and cannot be traded.”

The ban affects a range of mollusc species including mussels, oysters, clams, razor clams, cockles and scallops.

DEFRA said:“We are seeking a solution that will enable the trade in undepurate­d LBMs

[live bivalve molluscs] to resume securely.To minimise delays and disruption, it is necessary for exporters to provide accurate informatio­n and to understand the requiremen­ts for the goods being exported.”

The government stresses that exporters should ensure they provide certifying officers with the correct customs codes and descriptio­ns for all goods included in the consignmen­t and suggests that exporters check with trading partners whether the relevant EU Member State Border Control Post is able to accept their consignmen­t.

Above: David Jarrad

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Above: Fresh cockles
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