Fishing income at record level

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Provisional statistics published by Scotland’s Chief Statistician show that the value of fish landed by Scottish vessels increased by 15 per cent in 2011 to reach the highest level in the decade.

The figures show that 358,000 tonnes of fish were landed by Scottish vessels with a value of £500 million.

The total value of fish landed by Scottish vessels in 2011 was £500 million, the highest value achieved in the last decade. The main reason for this is a 43 per cent increase in the value of pelagic landings to £184 million in 2011. There was a six per cent increase in the value of shellfish to £164 million while the value of whitefish landings at £152 million remained the same as 2010.

Welcoming the news, Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “It’s encouraging that the value of the Scottish catch has hit the highest level in a decade, demonstrating that the seafood landed by our fishermen is increasingly sought after, with most prices on the up.

“With mackerel accounting for nearly a third of the overall total, it underlines how important this stock is to Scotland. That’s why the EU must urgently progress plans for sanctions to address the reckless overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroes. Otherwise this valuable fishery may not be there in the years to come.

“In testing economic times, Scottish fisheries continue to perform well and are making an important economic contribution – including a major slice of the record increase in Scottish food and drink exports in 2011 – while also supporting the long term viability of our coastal communities.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “We welcome the increase in the value of the catch landed by the Scottish fleet, which is good news for the industry and the Scottish economy as a whole.

“However, it would be wrong to conclude that all is well with the industry – for example on the international scene a chill wind is blowing in the shape of the gross over-fishing of the valuable north-east Atlantic mackerel stock by Iceland and the Faroes, which provides an uncertain future for our mackerel fishermen.

“For other fishing industry sectors, the figures also mask underlying problems such as increased operating costs and the continual tightening of control restrictions, particularly the number of days that vessels can put to sea. For example, all of our vessels a

“re enduring dramatically increased fuel prices, which have a huge impact on profitability. Indeed, some whitefish skippers are reporting their highest ever turnover yet lowest ever levels of profitability because of this soaring fuel expenditure, combined with the ever increasing costs of leasing extra quota to try and make their boats viable.”

Pelagic landings are dominated by mackerel, which saw a 44 per cent increase in value in 2011. This stems from a 33 per cent increase in the price obtained for mackerel combined with an eight per cent increase in volume. Herring, the other key pelagic species, also experienced a marked increase in price in 2011, 61 per cent higher than 2010 leading to a 46 per cent increase in value, in spite of a decrease in the volume landed.

Although the value of whitefish landed by Scottish vessels was the same as in 2010, prices increased for all the main whitefish species, except for hake, ling and monkfish, where prices remained roughly stable. A five per cent decrease in the value of cod and haddock landings was observed in 2011, driven by decreases in the volume landed.

However, these small decreases in value were offset by increased value of all the other main whitefish species.

The six per cent overall increase in the value of shellfish landed is driven by a nine per cent increase in the value of Nephrops, the main shellfish species.

The number of active fishing vessels based in Scotland was 2,096 at the end of 2011, representing a decrease of 54 vessels (three per cent) on the previous year and the lowest number in the past decade.

The number of fishermen employed on Scottish fishing vessels at the end of 2011 stood at 5,005. This represents a decrease of 231 (four per cent) compared to the previous year and, as for the number of fishing vessels, is the lowest number in the past decade.