UK Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss pledged her full support for the Scottish fishing industry during a visit to Peterhead.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs made the pledge in response to Russia’s food export ban during her trip to the North-east on Friday.
During the visit, Ms Truss met with Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead as well as the Scottish NFU.
As part of her meeting with Scottish fishing industry representatives, Ms Truss set out what the Government is doing to help minimise any impact on businesses following the Russian sanctions.
Earlier in the day, the recently-appointed DEFRA Secretary visited Peterhead fish market.
Ms Truss said the UK government, alongside industry, the Scottish government and the European Commission, is working to open up lucrative new fish markets - particularly Japan, China and Nigeria - to help businesses increase their international trade.
The ban is expected to have the most effect on Scotland’s mackerel trade with around £16 million worth exported to Russia each year.
Ms Truss said the impact could include issues with herring and potentially the price of mackerel.
Ahead of the visit to Peterhead, Elizabeth Truss said: “This ban is totally unjustified and I share the concerns of Scotland’s fishing industry about the possible impact on their business.
“I want Scotland’s fishermen to be assured the UK government stands ready to support them throughout these sanctions.
“We will continue to use our clout to lobby hard in Brussels on behalf of Scotland’s world-class fishing industry.”
Commenting after their meeting, Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “I met with the industry last week and we are putting together a five-point action plan.”
Accompanying the Secretary of State during the trip was Ross Dougal, Vice-President of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.He said: “We are delighted that the Secretary of State took the time for this important fact finding visit to Peterhead.
“She listened carefully to a wide range of industry concerns – in particular the impact the forthcoming discards ban will have on our whitefish, prawn and pelagic fishermen, and the need for there to be a sensible and practicable management regime that shows great flexibility and doesn’t threaten the future viability of our fishing fleets.
“She also heard of our real fears over the impact of Russian retaliatory sanctions on mackerel fishermen and processors, and the importance of support measures to help the sector through this difficult period.
Mr Dougal added: ”We welcome that the Secretary of State recognised these concerns, and that the UK Government is working with the Scottish Government towards implementing measures to alleviate their impact.”
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs now aims to look with the Scottish Government to look at what support can be provided to meet the cost to fishermen of storing frozen mackerel while alternative markets are sought, and work with the fishing industry to manage supplies of mackerel this coming fishing season to help keep prices stable.
The food ban represents 0.2% of the UK’s £18.9bn food exports and products covered by the sanctions include poultry, pork, fish, dairy and vegetables.
The UK Government does not anticipate a significant overall impact to business but Scotland’s mackerel industry is expected to be the most affected.