'Last Drop': Danish Fisheries Hit by Crisis in Aftermath of Brexit
The number of Danish fishing vessels in use has dwindled from 2,268 in 2016 to 1,963 in 2021, while the number of boats on sale as has doubled since 2018.
Shoals of fishing boats are on sale in Denmark, which is seen as sign of crisis within an industry that is still reeling from Brexit. The latter has led to reduced fishing quotas for non-British vessels in UK waters.
At West-Ship alone, one of Denmark's four major shipbrokers, there are about 150 fishing vessels for sale – twice as many as in 2018.
"Today, they come in all categories, from small net boats and trawlers to some of the largest in Danish fishing. And they are both new and old", shipbroker Anders Stenumgaard told Danish Radio.
However, this is far from a "wishful thinking" type of a situation even for a broker.
"It's sad when people sell to get out of business or reduce cadence", Stenumgaard said.
At the same time, the number of Danish fishing vessels has dwindled from 2,268 in 2016 to 1,963 in 2021.
Fisherman Asger Christiansen said it is no longer worth it to sail out and trawl fish.
"I have a lump in the throat. I'm not happy about that. We feel we are pushed into a corner now that it has become unbearable to stay", Christiansen told Danish Radio, citing problems such as small cod quotas, large sea-based wind farms, and the criticism of bottom trawls, which many fishermen make a living from.
He described Brexit, which redistributed fishing rights, as the "last drop that made the glass overflow". All North Sea fishermen were lumped together in the Brexit deal, leading to a situation where a one-man boat that fished locally lost the same share as large vessels that fished 90 percent of their catch in British waters.
The UK and the EU previously agreed that 25 percent of EU boats' fishing rights in UK waters will be transferred to the British fishing fleet over a period of five years. To make up for the losses, the EU has allocated nearly DKK 1.2 billion ($200 million) to Danish fishermen as compensation for Brexit. While the money has been promised for scrapping equipment, many fishermen would like to receive the money directly.
In 2019, the total gross turnover for Danish fisheries was some DKK 3.2 billion ($500 million). Overall, Danish fisheries employ some 16,000 people.
"We fishermen could use a shot in the arm. This will mean that we can pay off some of our debt or invest in new quotas so that we can fish as much as before Brexit. It will give some air in the budget", Christiansen said. He described his ship as his second home and said he would rather see others use it than scrap it.
Yet, due to EU state aid rules, it is still unclear whether fishermen can be personally paid the money for their lost quotas, a problem that the Danish Agriculture Ministry promised to address in the coming weeks.
Denmark is also one of 14 EU member states preparing a joint declaration accusing the British government of causing "significant economic and social damage" to their fishing communities following Brexit.
According to The Guardian, the signatories, whose list includes France and Germany, will call for the UK to act "in the spirit and the letter" of the Brexit deal struck last Christmas Eve. Earlier, the UK and its crown dependencies, including Jersey, sparked European ire by reducing the number of licenses given to small boat owners.