Another GBP 1 billion year for UK fishing fleet but profits fall

Published on
August 22, 2019

The turnover achieved by the United Kingdom's fishing fleet reached GBP 1 billion (USD 1.2 billion, EUR 1.1 billion) for the second consecutive year in 2018, although external factors such as fuel cost, weather, and the political landscape have led to a fall in profits, new figures released by seafood public body Seafish showed.

Seafish’s report, “Economics of the UK Fishing Fleet 2018,” which analyzes the performance of the catching sector and is based on the most recent annual accounts available for fishing vessels, also confirmed that operating costs for U.K. vessels increased by 2 percent last year to GBP 759 million (USD 922.9 million, EUR 832.6 million).

The sector achieved a total operating profit of GBP 268 million (USD 325.9 million, EUR 294 million) which was 4 percent lower than in 2017. This was largely attributed to a marked increase in fuel costs, with the average fuel price increasing by 19 percent to GBP 0.50 (USD 0.61, EUR 0.55) per liter, while poor weather conditions early in 2018 caused a 5 percent reduction in the number of days at sea.

The fishing income remained largely unchanged at GBP 978 million (USD 1.2 billion, EUR 1.1 billion), a 5 percent increase in the average price of landings mitigated against a lower number of active vessels (down 3 percent to 4,512) and a 5 percent reduction in total weight landed.

Overall, almost 688,000 metric tons (MT) of fish and shellfish were landed by the fleet in 2018. Most of the landings were made in the United Kingdom, with Peterhead, Lerwick and Fraserburgh being the main landing ports by weight. Landings abroad were mainly in Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Ireland. 

In addition to collating financial data, the survey also asked skippers and vessel owners to look ahead and consider their business in the future. Seafish said there was a “mixed response” to the impact of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, with some perceiving it as an opportunity, while others felt it was a potential risk to their businesses. 

“In the light of increasing operating costs and various factors largely beyond the control of the industry, these figures represent another solid year for the U.K. fishing fleet,” said Steve Lawrence, economics project manager at Seafish. “Within this overall picture there are of course variations with some parts of the fleet performing better than others. Shellfish fishermen exporting to E.U. countries have benefitted from an average price-per-ton increase by 42 percent since 2015, in part due to the drop in the pound/euro exchange rate, while longliners over 10-meters in length have suffered from a significant decrease in revenues due to a fall in the price of hake and a reduction in their landings per day at sea.”

The forthcoming 2019 annual fleet survey began in July and continues until September and the results from that will be published next year.

Photo courtesy of Seafish

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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