Many fishermen have been unable to export to the EU since catch certificates, health checks and customs declarations were introduced at the start of this year, delaying their deliveries and prompting European buyers to reject them.
Trucks with slogans such as “Brexit carnage” and “incompetent government destroying shellfish industry” parked metres from Johnson’s 10 Downing Street office in central London. Police were asking the lorry drivers for details.
“We strongly feel the system could potentially collapse,” said Gary Hodgson, a director of Venture Seafoods, which exports live and processed crabs and lobsters to the EU has trucks parked near Downing Street.
“Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs to be honest with us, with himself and with the British public about the problems for the industry,” he told Reuters.
Hodgson said he had cancelled several lorries since December because of red tape.
Britain, which has now completed its journey out of the EU’s orbit, harvests vast quantities of langoustines, scallops, oysters, lobsters and mussels from sea fisheries along its coast which are rushed by truck to EU destinations.
Under a deal reached last month, British trade with the EU remains free of tariffs and quotas on goods, but fish exporters say their businesses are now threatened by a host of often conflicting demands for documents to export to the EU.
A spokesman for the British government’s environment ministry declined immediate comment. Environment Secretary George Eustice said last week that post-Brexit “teething problems” on fish exports could be resolved shortly.
Those participating in the protest said the British government needed to understand the severity of the problems they face and the impact on coastal communities.
They want a more workable system and say there is a shortage of customs agents on both sides.
“It’s not just possible to work with their new rules, between costs, timing, paperwork, it’s just not possible,” said Allan Miller, owner of AM Shellfish in Aberdeen, Scotland, who was parked up in his truck in London.
Miller delivers brown crab, lobster and prawns to the EU but the red tape means live shellfish is getting to market much later - and thus getting lower prices.
“They’ll buy it but if the stuff is weaker they’ll pay less for it,” he said.
Miller criticised Johnson’s Brexit trade deal, saying delivery times had doubled to at least 48 hours from 24 hours.
He said the situation with live shellfish deliveries, with vets checking the loads, was “crazy”.
“I used to be able to load on Sunday, be on the ferry Monday morning and my first drop would be Monday night, so 24 hours from finishing loading to the first customer. Now you’re talking 48 hours to 50 hours. It’s crazy,” he said.