Paella
UK government claims 85% of all UK shellfish exports headed for European shores in 2015.iStock

The EU referendum campaign has taken a fishy turn, as the government attempts to convince the British electorate to back a 'remain' vote because of the UK's whale-sized seafood exports to the continent. The Department for Environment claimed 85% or £350m ($508m, €449.9m) worth of all shellfish exports headed to European shores in 2015.

Elizabeth Truss, the pro-EU environment secretary, said the UK's membership of the 28-nation-bloc means fisherman are free from tariffs or other "unnecessary" red tape. The top Conservative warned the potential loss to fish and shellfish exporters could be up to £100m outside of the EU.

"UK fishermen continue to reap the benefits of easy access, tariff-free, to the world's largest single market of 500 million consumers. That is why it's great to see UK companies flying the flag for our fishing industry in Brussels this week and using the opportunity to take advantage of easy access to the EU market."

The Department for Environment added: "While in Spain, many British tourists enjoy the tradition of eating a simmering pan of paella. The UK exports about £80m worth of langoustines to Mediterranean countries each year, so this Spanish luxury will often be crowned by these delicacies caught off the coast of the UK."

But the EU's fishing rules and regulations have been a sore point for Brexit campaigners, who have criticised the Common Fisheries Policy. The policy sets quotas on the amount and type of fish member states can catch, with Ukip claiming the rules have had a "dire impact" on Britain's seaside communities.

"Ukip will reclaim our territorial fishing waters, restore our fishing fleet and introduce sustainable fishing practices," the Eurosceptic party said in the run-up to the 2015 general election. "Ukip will also withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy and EU control over our fishing grounds and fish stocks."

Latest EU referendum opinion polls

DatePollsterRemainLeaveUndecidedMethod
16-19 AprComRes51%40%9%Telephone
16-18 AprIpsos MORI49%39%8%Telephone
15-17 AprICM43%44%13%Online
13-17 AprORB53%41%11%Telephone
12-14 AprYouGov40%39%16%Online
7-11 AprTNS35%35%30%Online