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Covid’s Impact on the Fishing Sector

There is no sector of our economy that has not been hit hard by the covid19 pandemic. The fishing industry saw significant decreases in both landings and the value of catch in 2020. This has been disastrous for Scotland’s coastal and island communities.

Landings by Scottish Registered Vessels 2020 (provisional figures)

landings by Scottish registered vessels 2020

The following information is about fishing vessels which are registered in Scotland and covers seafish and shellfish.

Mackerel continues to be the most valuable fish landed and there was an increase of 28% in landings of the species. This is the only one to show an increase. It was worth £175million. Less than half of those landings (48%) were at Scottish ports, 52% were landed abroad.

Haddock fell in value by 25% to £33million, monkfish by 17% to £30million and cod by 44% to £24million.

The largest decreases were in shellfish with April 2020 the worst affected with a drop in landings of 60%. This represents in £ value as a decrease of 75% on the previous year.

For the whole year the total value of nephrops( that’s the Norwegian lobster/langoustine) was £47million, almost half the value (49%) less than 2019.

Value (real terms) of shellfish landings by Scottish registered vessels by month 2019 – 2020

This next set of figures is for the ‘UK Fishing Fleet‘, and are published by Seafish UK– the public body supporting the industry.

Fishing income in the UK as a whole fell from £990 million in 2019 to £806 million in 2020. “This was due to lower levels of fishing activity and lower fish prices.”

Arina Motova, Chief Economist at Seafish said:

“The global pandemic has affected every part of our lives so it’s no surprise that the UK fishing fleet had a challenging year in 2020. The impacts can be seen in the figures published today, which show overall operating profits falling by 19%.

“These are top-line average figures and different parts of the fleet have had different experiences. For example, vessels normally supplying shellfish into hospitality markets were acutely affected. Overall nephrops trawlers and scallop dredgers saw fishing income drop by 39% in 2020 compared to 2019. Elsewhere those catching mackerel enjoyed higher quotas and relatively stable average prices.”

The figures are based on preliminary landings data and the results of Seafish’s 2020 survey of the UK fishing fleet.

Arina Motova continued:

“2020 has again shown the resilience of the UK fishing fleet in extremely challenging times. Most vessels could not avoid tying up or reducing their activity for a period. That said, adaptation, diversification and collaboration have kept vessels fishing and the seafood supply chain moving.

“While it’s too early to understand the full impact of the pandemic on the economic performance of fishing vessels, these figures do give us an early indication of the situation. We expect to see more detail as company accounts are filed next spring.”

Vessels of The UK Fishing Fleet

This data is for June 2021 for the number of vessels registered in the UK.

Vessels over 10m

Scotland511
England477
Northern Ireland106
Wales24
Vessels over 10m

Vessels 10m and Under

England2,132
Scotland1,497
Wales347
Northern Ireland190
Vessels 10m and under

Fishing is an important sector of the Scottish economy. To put all the above figures in context, England’s population is 10 times that of Scotland. When you look at the number of vessels each country has you can see for yourself that for Scotland, and especially for our coastal and island communities fishing both seafish and shellfish is a vital part of our economy.

The fishing industry has also had to deal with the impact of Brexit which has added to the issues raised with the public health restrictions of the pandemic.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

image credit Bell

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