There is one exception: Iceland’s fisheries sector accounts for six per cent of GDP. That figure ought to tell us something about how to use the renewable resources around our shores. One reason Iceland earns so much from fish is that it has learnt how to make use of every last piscine ounce. What was recently discarded as waste is now turned into cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and health supplements. The livers, the roes, the heads, the intestines, the bones, the scales: all are monetised.
Over the past decade, a number of Icelandic firms have learnt how to transmute guts into gold, so to speak: Zymetech extracts fish enzymes for use in medicines; Genis turns shrimp shells into pharmaceutical products; Primex turns them into cosmetics; Kerecis uses fish skins and fatty acids to treat wounds and control infections.
There are colossal growth opportunities here. Even if Britain were to land twice as many fish as now, the impact on our economy as a whole would barely be felt. But, given our location and the opportunity to harvest a sustainable catch of oily fish packed with useful enzymes, we could become world leaders in this young field. Picture Hull and Grimsby as pharmaceutical hubs, attracting biologists and chemists from around the world. Imagine the refinement there of collagen and medicines and fish leather and omega oil and calcium supplements and a hundred other products we haven’t yet thought of.
Here, in short, is an obvious way to raise those brave old towns – towns devastated by the Common Fisheries Policy, which could now revive with cutting-edge industries, leading the recovery of that part of the Red Wall. Yes, fisheries matter symbolically. But, by Heaven, they could matter practically, too.