AS NEW trading rules with the European Union come into force from 1 January regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal, a final call has gone out from Shetland Islands Council reminding owners of fishing vessels to get registered as food producing businesses if they have not done so already.
Environmental health team leader David Robertson said the council was close to completing all the preparatory work including final checks on export businesses and employing health inspectors.
After 31 December all fish to be exported to the EU will require an official health certificate.
Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael raised the incoming changes in the Commons recently by accusing the Scottish Government of “sitting on their hands” when it came to Brexit preparations, and in particular in addressing the shortage of environmental health officers nationally.
Locally, Robertson said the council has been prioritising this work for the last six months and, in any case, most health certificates for fish landed in Lerwick or Scalloway would not be issued on the islands but at logistic hubs in central Scotland.
Robertson added, however, that the local authority expected to see growing demand for health certificates for fish being exported to markets outside the EU.
“To date, we have completed around 150 fishing vessel inspections with only a few vessels still left to check,” he said.
“We are also carrying out final verification checks in all the main fish processing businesses, to allow the issuing of export health certificates (EHCs) both locally and through the logistic hubs in central Scotland,” he said.
“Much of Shetland’s fish will be routed through these hubs and it is they who will be issuing the health certification. This will help reduce the demand for EHCs locally through Shetland Islands Council.”
Robertson added: “The national shortage of environmental health officers has meant that Shetland Islands Council has had to take on this extra work using existing resources, on top of other Covid-19 related work this year.
“We already issue EHCs for companies in Shetland that export fishery products to countries outside the EU but we do expect volumes to increase significantly in the new year.
“I would urge any fishing vessel owner who hasn’t yet contacted us to arrange a vessel inspection to do this as soon as possible.
“I would also appeal to any other fishing operator/business who has otherwise traded freely within the EU until now to seek advice and information so that they are fully prepared for 1 January 2021.”
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