The Ethical Shellfish Company, based in Mull, Scotland, has closed due to difficulties caused by the COVID-19 crisis and Brexit.
The business was opened 12 years ago by founder Guy Grieve and offered locally caught and farmed lobster, brown crab, hand-dipped king scallops, langoustine, rope-grown mussels and oysters.
In an email sent to customers, Grieve said the coronavirus pandemic has shut down the company’s restaurant business. He then turned to home delivery, but was forced to sell his boats to float the business during the period of lean sales. Then, due to Brexit, it lost its seafood supply to other local dive fishing boats in the area as their European crews were forced out of the country.
“It was a very difficult decision that caused us a lot of anxiety and grief. We don’t see it as a failure, but more like a bygone era. But running an ethical fishing business presents real challenges which, combined to the events of the last few years, ultimately defeated us. We thought it would be helpful to lay out the reasons as we see them why our model hasn’t worked in the long run,” Grieve said.
“This led to a drastic crew shortage which ultimately caused our main supplier to abandon fishing altogether and leave Scotland,” Grieve said. “It also made it even more difficult to staff our small operation on Mull.”
A lack of affordable accommodation caused by Mull’s growing popularity as a holiday destination has also combined to doom the venture, Grieve said.
“It has always been a challenge to find staff on the islands, but the explosive growth in holiday accommodation following COVID has made the situation even worse. We have tried to find people to work for us in Mull, but nowhere where to stay, it is virtually impossible to attract people to move in. The scourge of second homes means that houses sit empty for months waiting to be populated with holidaymakers in the summer. workers, who would contribute to the community, are struggling to find homes, and all the homes that come on the market are being bought at inflated prices as second homes,” Grieve said. “It was like the final insult when we finally asked us to vacate our business premises so they could be turned into – you guessed it – yet another holiday home.”
Finally, Grieve blamed recent changes to the law that made it more difficult to operate a scallop fishing business.
“The mainstay of our business was hand fishing for scallops, but recent changes to scallop diving legislation have made it much more difficult to set up as a dive fisherman. Many of the increased regulations seem unnecessary and arguably makes diving less safe rather than safer,” he said. “It certainly suits some people that they don’t have seabed divers witnessing the damage on a daily basis. or not, the loser is the sea, as health and safety legislation is increasingly shifting in favor of larger boats fishing in ways that are detrimental to the marine environment.And hand-dipped scallops will become more and more more difficult to find.
Grieve cited poor fisheries management, including the use of scallop dredging and trawling, as “decimating” local scallop stocks.
“Unfortunately, the fact remains that large-scale fishing and bulk sourcing are still encouraged by our government, with little support or encouragement for small-scale fishermen who fish responsibly while caring for the environment that surrounds them. support,” Grieve wrote.
Photo courtesy of The Ethical Shellfish Company