View: One Easy Choice for our new PM

29 August 2022

There will, I am sure, be a great many issues deserving the new Prime Minister’s attention when she (or he) arrives at No. 10 next week. All of us are painfully aware of the cost of living crisis, soaring energy prices, the dangerous situation in Ukraine and much, much more besides.

While the crisis facing the UK’s distant waters fishing fleet does not rank alongside these in terms of overall importance, it is just as urgent and, unlike almost everything else that the new administration will immediately have to face, there is a simple and quick solution.

For more than three years, we at UK Fisheries have, on behalf of the crews that we represent and their families, been pushing Defra and DIT for something very simple indeed, the restoration of the whitefish quotas, off the coast of Norway and in and around the Barents sea, that until 2019 we used to harvest for the good of the British economy.

Our state-of-the-art freezer trawler Kirkella is, in fact, the only remaining UK vessel regularly operating in these waters. She is the sole trawler supplying British-caught Arctic cod and haddock to chippies up and down the country. But she has just half the fishing opportunities she had in 2019, and the actions (or inactions) of our government are directly to blame.

We’re not asking for anything new. In 2019 we fished the best part of 15,000 tonnes off the coasts of Norway and Svalbard, now we have just half that - for lack of political resolve and proper negotiation as should befit an independent coastal state. Obviously, this is not a viable position in the long term. But, incomprehensibly, the survival of our industry has proved of little or no interest to those in whose gift it is to ensure it.

Time and again we have stated our case: the economic case,  that we provide much-needed jobs and investment in the north-east; the industrial case, that we are now the last remaining representatives of an industry that has fed our country for centuries, and that if we fail it will be gone for good; and the food security case, that if we are unable to carry on fishing for Britain, then the UK will simply need to import more whitefish from Norway, Iceland, or even Russia.

But our pleas for survival have fallen on deaf ears, or rather, they have been heard but not listened to. Defra has quite simply ceased responding to our arguments in any meaningful sense, and recent communications are something of which Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud.

We are a proudly British company. Kirkella’s home port is Hull, our headquarters are yards from the Humber, we pay all our taxes in the UK and our crews are overwhelmingly British. But the Fisheries Minister and Secretary of State have time and again pointed to the fact that our shareholders are Dutch and Icelandic as a reason for depriving our British crews of their livelihood. Frankly, we have begun to wonder if they really understand how foreign investment works, or how Honda, Tata, or any of the other great investors in British industry would react to the same argument.

Well, we may have new faces at Defra and DIT in the near future. If we do, then perhaps they will be more responsive and sympathetic to our simple ask: use the UK’s trade muscle as an independent coastal state to return our quotas with Norway, Greenland and other traditional partners to what they recently were – or even better. This would be a quick and simple win for a proud British industry  and be a great help to Britain’s fish & chip shops who are struggling to find supplies of cod at sensible prices. Let’s face it, there are few such easy wins for a British government that cost almost nothing.

And if the existing team stay on in Westminster and Whitehall, well, of course we wish them well. But our ask is the same. Please, finally, listen to the simplicity and common sense in what we say. Deliver that ‘sea of opportunity’, and help us preserve jobs, investment and an industry that is, for the time being at least, still an important part of our national identity and culture.


Media contact

For more information contact Trevor Datson


Kirkella tour
Kirkella in Hull
Kirkella on the Humber
Kirkella Port 2
Kirkella Bow 2
Kirkella Birdseye 2
Kirkella Naming Ceremony and VIP Reception
Kirkella lunch party at Cutty Sark Museum
Kirkella Great British Fish & Chips event at Greenwich
Kirkella speech by HRH The Princess Royal
Kirkella passing through Tower Bridge
Kirkella BBC News
HRH The Princess Royal names Kirkella
Kirkella cutaway animation
Sir Barney White-Spunner, UK Fisheries Ltd, Interview
Kirkella General Tour
Kirkella Factory Tour


Kirkella trawling
Kirkella on Humber
Kirkella drone footage
Kirkella drone footage
Kirkella drone footage
The Kirkella Naming celebration lunch at the Cutty Sark Museum
The Fish Fryers free fish & chip event at Cutty Sark Gardens for 2,500 locals
The City of Hull Brass Band at Cutty Sark Gardens
Sir Barney White-Spunner, Chairman of the Advisory Board, UK Fisheries, at the Kirkella Naming celebration dinner at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Kirkella sailing upstream through Tower Bridge
Kirkella sailing downstream through Tower Bridge
HRH The Princess Royal with Graham Barney, Factory Manager, Kirkella
HRH The Princess Royal with Charlie Waddy, First Mate, on the bridge of Kirkella
HRH The Princess Royal unveiling a model of Kirkella presented by UK Fisheries to the National Maritime Museum
HRH The Princess Royal Naming Kirkella at Greenwich
HRH The Princess Royal meeting Stig Maersk, Musical Director, and players in the City of Hull Brass Band
HRH The Princess Royal making her address at the Kirkella Naming Ceremony in Greenwich
2,500 local people in Greenwich enjoying free Kirkella-caught cod & chips
Sir Barney White-Spunner, Chairman of the Advisory Board, UK Fisheries Ltd
UK Fisheries infographic
Kirkella poster
Cutaway illustration of Kirkella
UK Fisheries Ltd logo