Publication - Progress report

Electrofishing for razor clams trial: update report - 1 February 2020 to 31 January 2021

Published: 15 Nov 2021
Mairi Gougeon MSP
Marine Scotland Directorate
Part of:
Marine and fisheries

An update report on the Electrofishing for Razor Clams Trial from 1 February 2020 to 31 January 2021.

Electrofishing for razor clams trial: update report - 1 February 2020 to 31 January 2021
Analysis of Covid-19 and EU Exit impacts' survey responses

Analysis of Covid-19 and EU Exit impacts' survey responses

Marine Scotland carried out a survey exploring the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and EU Exit on businesses participating in the electrofishing for razor clams trial. The response rate was high and covered more than two thirds of the vessels participating in Year 3 of the trial.

Survey results show that the majority of businesses were negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with over half of the respondents saying their business was affected very negatively. The razor clam trial was suspended over the period: 2359 hrs on 31st March 0001 hrs on 23rd June 2020, however vessel owners noted negative impacts on their business throughout the whole Year 3 of the trial. When comparing to the previous trial year's turnover, half of the respondents experienced a decrease between 20% to 50%, whilst a sixth of the respondents saw their turnover fall by more than 50%. Over 90% of the respondents linked this decrease to the Covid-19 pandemic.

All respondents applied for at least one government support scheme.

As seen in Figure 11, the second most reported negative impact of Covid-19, besides the pause in the trial, was a drop in demand from international markets. Over 90% of the respondents marked Asia as their business primary sales market for razor clams. Owing to the pandemic, businesses sought out new markets with around a third of the respondents claiming to supply razor clams to a mix of new and old markets. It was noted though that the price received at the new markets was lower. Half of the respondents said that by the end of Year 3, trade had recovered only partially when comparing to pre-pandemic conditions.

Vessel owners also reported significant transport issues as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the main influencing factor being lack of suitable air freight. Lack of flights, and reduced flight routes pushed up the cost of air freight. On top of that, it was noted that often the product had to be transported to a more distant large airport, such as Manchester or Heathrow, further increasing the costs for the businesses. This also meant that due to time delays goods arrived at the destination market in poor condition. Many respondents emphasised that previously razor clams could be flown out of Scotland with next day arrival in the destination market and that the aforementioned transport issues resulted in lower quality product reaching the final market, further reducing demand.

Several vessel owners flagged issues with work force - a lack of suitably qualified divers and employees not being able to work due to issues related to Covid-19.

Around a quarter of the respondents said their businesses experienced issues due to the EU Exit transition period and EU Exit. The most common impact was an increase in costs that incurred to get razor clams to the destination market. Other impacts were delays at the border due to new paperwork or queues, transport problems on land for exporting to the EU and decrease in EU workers.

Half of the respondents are in the process of planning, or have already made plans anticipating future sudden fluctuations similar to those caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and EU Exit. The measures mentioned by vessel owners include adapting their business models and diversifying revenue streams.

Figure 11: Proportion of businesses affected negatively by the Covid-19 pandemic
Bar chart showing Proportion of businesses affected negatively by the covid-19 pandemic