UK fishing fleet income increasing

Published on
July 24, 2017

The United Kingdom’s fishing fleet registered its best economic performance for eight years in 2016, according to the latest report from U.K. industry body Seafish.

The Economics of the UK Fishing Fleet report, now in its eleventh year, gives a comprehensive overview of the financial and operational performance of the sector, based on face-to-face interviews with more than 700 skippers and vessel owners, as well as fleet statistics. 

It found that total income of the U.K. fleet rose by 19 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year, to reach GBP 920 million (EUR 1.1 billion, USD 1.2 billion), with the price per metric ton landed averaging out at GBP 1,318 (EUR 1,469, USD 1,710). This was the highest price recorded since 2011. 

Operating profit increased by 22 percent to GBP 207 million (EUR 231 million, USD 269 million), aided by an increase in the price of fish and improved vessel efficiency. In addition, vessels making direct sales to Europe benefited from the decrease in the value of sterling, which further increased profit margins. 

Gross value added (GVA), which is the sum of operating profit and total wages, rose by 25 percent to GBP 467 million (EUR 521 million, USD 606 million). However, operating costs across the whole fleet increased by an average of 24 percent in 2016. Costs factored in included fuel, labor, harbor dues, levies, quota leasing and sales commission, as well as vessel maintenance and insurance. Fuel was one of the few expenses that decreased during the year, with estimates putting the total cost for the fleet at GBP 94 million (EUR 105 million, USD 122.2 million), a decrease of GBP 4 million (EUR 4.5 million, USD 5.2 million) on 2015. Fuel costs were GBP 48 million (EUR 53.6 million, USD 62.4 million) less than in 2014. 

The total weight of fish landed by U.K. vessels decreased in 2016 to 697,000 tonnes, down slightly from 706,000 tonnes in 2015. Vessels registered in Scotland landed the most fish, with 63 percent of the total catch.

Mackerel made up more than 30 per cent of the total landings of the U.K. fleet by weight, and mackerel, nephrops, scallops, monkfish and herring together made up half of the total value. 

In general, shellfish and demersal species are the most valuable per tonne, reaching average prices approximately three times higher than those of pelagic species. However, in 2016, the price of mackerel and herring increased significantly as a result of strong demand from the Far East.

The number of active fishing vessels increased from 4,576 in 2015 to 4,607 in 2016, although around 1,700 of these are low-activity vessels, which reported a fishing income of less than GBP 10,000 (EUR 11,157, USD 13,000) during the year.

While the sector currently appears to be more buoyant than for a number of years, skippers, and vessel owners expressed concerns about the future. In particular they highlighted issues such as the availability and cost of quota, rising operating costs, competition, status of stocks, fish prices, Brexit, and the future political landscape, as major factors that have the potential to impact the financial performance of their businesses. And despite the notable decrease in fuel prices, the ongoing fluctuation of that price continues to make forward planning difficult.

Seafish senior economist Arina Motova, was both surprised and pleased by the results of the survey. 

“These are very strong figures for the U.K fleet. The increase of fishing revenues and continuing low fuel prices have played a key role in these great results, and in 2016 this sector’s contribution to the economy was at its highest level since 2008,” Motova said. “At the same time, we estimate an increase in crew wages of 27 percent in 2016. This, together with better economic performance and increased profits, means that 2016 was a good year for both business owners and crew members.”

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