Peterhead fares better than most fishing ports

Marine Scotland has just published its annual report on Scottish Fisheries Statistics 2020 which gives detailed statistics on the landings of fish in every port in the country, including Peterhead.

By Tony Mackay, Economist
Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 7:00 am
Although fish landings were down, Peterhead fared better than most Scottish ports.
Although fish landings were down, Peterhead fared better than most Scottish ports.

The numbers are disaggregated by species, tonnage and value.

The value of fish landings at Peterhead fell by 11 per cent to £162.2 million last year, but the tonnage was up by seven per cent to 154.3 million.

In Scotland as a whole the value of landings in 2020 was down 27 per cent and the tonnage down four per cent.

So the Perterhead value fall was less than the national average and the tonnage rise significantly better.

Peterhead is by far the biggest fishing port in the country. The landings value was 40.3 per cent of the Scottish total and the tonnage 53.8 per cent.

The annual report states: “The 21 per cent decrease in the real terms value of landings by Scottish vessels to £488 million, between 2019 and 2020, was driven by a decrease in the value of shellfish and demersal species.

" The real terms value of shellfish landings decreased by 42 per cent and demersal landings decreased by 26 per cent compared to 2019, whereas pelagic landings increased by six per cent.

“The two per cent increase in tonnage landed by Scottish vessels is attributed to an increase in landings of pelagic fish. Shellfish landings fell 23 per cent by tonnage and demersal landings fell 10 per cent. Pelagic landings increased by 13 per cent.”

The report also states: “The lockdowns and restrictions imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic impacted many fishing vessels’ ability to land and sell fish during these months.

"Similar, but smaller decreases in value can be seen during the months October to December when further restrictions and a second lockdown were introduced.”

The lockdowns and restrictions are obviously the main reasons for the fall in value at Peterhead.

In terms of tonnage, pelagic fish accounted for 65 per cent of the Peterhead total (up 19 per cent on 2019), demersal (white fish) 32 per cent (down eight per cent) and shellfish three per cent (down 27 per cent). The biggest landings were of mackerel (43 per cent of the total), herring, haddock, blue whiting and saithe.

In terms of value, pelagic fish accounted for 51 per cent of the total (up 15 per cent on 2019), white fish 43 per cent (down 25 per cent) and shellfish six per cent (down 44 per cent). The most valuable species landed were mackerel at £69 million (42 per cent of the overall total), haddock, herring, whiting and nephrops.

The Marine Scotland report shows that there were only 105 registered fishing vessels at Peterhead at December 31, 2020, which was just three per cent of the Scottish total of 2088. There were just 399 fishers, eight per cent of the national total.

Those percentages are much lower than those for the weight and value of landings, so clearly most landings in Peterhead are made by vessels registered elsewhere.

Nevertheless, 2020 was obviously a very disappointing year for the local fishing industry because of the covid lockdowns and restrictions.

However, the Peterhead statistics are significantly better than those for Scotland as a whole.