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The Netherlands and fish
Over the years the Dutch fishing industry has won a major position on the international market. A quarter of all fish is landed by the national fleet. The remaining three-quarters are imports. Eighty per cent of all fish is sold abroad which makes the Netherlands one of
Europe's few net exporters, countries whose fish exports exceed their imports. Imports are currently some 2.2 billion euro, whereas exports generate over 2.5 billion euro, going mostly to European countries.
Location, energy and a rich maritime history created a fishing fleet of which the Dutch are proud; versatile and modern. In its present form, the Dutch fleet can roughly be divided into two parts: the cutter fleet and the trawler fleet. The cutter fleet consists of 413 cutter vessels. They are predominantly large cutters that fish with pulse, sum-wing or beam-trawl gear. These vessels mainly fish for flat fish, such as plaice and sole. The fleet also comprises smaller Euro cutters and specialised shrimp cutters. Trawlers mostly fish for herring, mackerel, horse mackerel and sardinella, catches being processed immediately and frozen on board. And there is the modern mussel fleet, consisting of some 58 vessels with sophisticated equipment for farming and harvesting mussels.
The fish auction is the essential trade step between fish landings and the trade. The Netherlands has eleven fish auctions where fresh fish is traded weekly and a number of smaller auctions located around the IJsselmeer where fresh water fish are traded. The auction provides space to unload and sort the fish and temporarily store it. Auction field staff assess the quality of every batch arriving. Each auction has a hall, known locally as the 'mijnzaal', where the actual auction takes place. Dutch fish auctions are equipped with modern equipment and meet all requirements with regard to temperature control, hygiene and efficient fish handling.
Fish is often filleted, breaded, conserved or processed in one or another way before it is offered to the consumer. The Netherlands has approximately 600 companies involved in such processing and further trading. The processing of flat fish, crustaceans and shellfish accounts for the major part of turnover. The processing of herring and other pelagic species account for 15 per cent of turnover of the processing industry.