Peterhead Port Authority has announced its delight over the 2013 fish landing figures.
It said the figures were all the more important given the severe challenges both fishermen and processors faced throughout the year.
In addition, port chief executive John Wallace said it should be remembered that 2013 started out with some species of whitefish being unsold.
That was remedied, in part by the efforts of the North East Whitefish Forum and by the industry themselves responding to supply and demand issues.
Focussing on whitefish, Peterhead showed its resilience to the challenges by increasing tonnage (7%) in spite of cuts and in particular, increasing prices (5%) to end the year on a very positive note (£78.3 million value).
Mr Wallace commented: “I think these statistics only serve to underpin the port’s proposed £40 million investment in new facilities by constructing a new fish market with 50% more capacity and incorporating a covered, dedicated private sales landing area.
“While this will remove any vessels having to ‘lay over’ to land at a later market, it will also provide deep water berthing so skippers can manage their business to suit their needs and not the ‘state of the tide’.
“Returning to the fish figures, we are all too familiar with the difficulties facing the prawn sector and I think it is a tribute to those who persevered through the downturn, that the drop was only 25%.
“Many ports would be delighted to report 3,005 tonnes and £5.3 million in value – and Peterhead is no different.”
With regards to pelagic species, Mr Wallace suggested it was ‘a tale of two fisheries’ in Peterhead.
While mackerel prices were indeed back a bit, he suggested they were perhaps stronger than had been feared and the work of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association had to be congratulated for stimulating demand and securing this level of return.
He told us: “Many people do not realise the work and effort put in by this sector to remain competitive and sustainable in an extremely difficult marketplace.”
Meanwhile, the port authority has welcomed Northbay Pelagic Ltd to the harbour, a merger of Fresh Catch and Interfish - a partnership which Mr Wallace is convinced will go a long way to restoring the competitiveness of the former company.
The volume of both herring and blue whiting were down on previous years, mainly because of less landings by foreign vessels.
“We are confident this is only a temporary blip, and expect there to be a healthier total for 2014,” prediced the chief executive.
“Clearly, there are very important negotiations still forthcoming with Norway regarding whitefish and major pelagic issues remain with Faroe and Iceland.
“However, I believe we should take some comfort in the knowledge that our industry, under the leadership of the SFF, with its various composite bodies, campaign on a daily basis to protect our livelihood and are an indomitable force to be reckoned with.”
For more on Peterhead Port Authority’s success in 2013 see its ‘Success’ feature on page 32