2. The Scottish fishing fleet
This chapter brings together information on the Scottish fleet structure, fishing effort by the Scottish fleet, and the number of fishermen employed in Scotland. A summary of how the UK fleet is regulated is provided to assist interpretation of the statistics.
2.1 Regulation of the UK fleet
UK fishing vessels engaged in commercial sea fishing are required by law to be registered with the Registry of Shipping and Seamen (RSS), part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. To fish commercially, fishing vessels must also have a licence which specifies conditions that must be adhered to when fishing activity is being pursued. For the purpose of this statistical bulletin, active vessels are those which are both registered and licensed as of 31st December of the year of reference. Scottish based vessels are those registered to a port in Scotland licensed at and administered by a Scottish district.
UK fishing vessel licences authorise the sea areas in which a vessel can fish and the species of fish that can be retained on-board. Restrictive licensing was introduced in 1983 following agreement of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by the European Commission and has been used as the main tool to control UK fishing capacity to meet the European Union regulations for sustainable fisheries management. Initially, the licensing regime only covered vessels of over ten metres registered length and fishing for a number of designated species in specific areas. The coverage of licences has progressively extended over the years to cover all species if fished commercially and both the over ten metre fleet and ten metres and under fleet.
The capacity of fishing vessels in terms of vessel tonnage and power is also controlled through licences. With a finite number of licences in existence and no new licences made available, this places a ceiling on the total number and capacity of vessels in the UK fishing fleet. In order to license new vessels, fishermen must acquire one or more existing licences from other previously licensed vessels.
2.2 Size of the Scottish fleet
The number of active Scottish based vessels has increased to 2,033 vessels in 2016, representing a 0.9 per cent increase (19 vessels) since 2015 and a seven per cent decrease (160 vessels) since 2007 (Table 2.1 and Chart 2.1).
The total power of the Scottish fleet has increased slightly to 356,234 kW, up 0.7 per cent since last year. Since 2015, the total power of the over ten metre fleet increased by 0.4 per cent to 276,098 kW and the total power of the ten metre and under fleet increased two per cent to 80,136 kW.
Chart 2.1 Size of the Scottish fleet: 2007 to 2016
2.2.1 Size of the Scottish fleet by length
The Scottish fleet is dominated by vessels with a length of ten metres and under, with 1,464 vessels falling into this category in 2016, accounting for 72 per cent of the Scottish fleet. There are 569 vessels with a length of over ten metres (Table 2.1). In contrast, the over ten metre fleet holds 78 per cent of the total power of the Scottish fleet.
The average power for the over ten metre fleet was 485 kW per vessel in 2016, whereas the ten metre and under vessels had an average power of 55 kW per vessel. Compared to 2007, average power has seen little change in both the ten metre and under fleet and the over ten metre fleet, with an increase of three per cent and five per cent respectively. This increase in average vessel power occurs against the general trend of decreasing vessel numbers and aggregated fleet power. For the ten metre and under fleet, vessel numbers have decreased two per cent and total power has increase one per cent between 2007 and 2016. The over ten metre fleet has seen vessel numbers decrease by 19 per cent since 2007 and a 14 per cent decrease in total power.
As well as providing figures for the number, capacity and power of the over ten metre and ten metre and under fleets, figures are given for revised length categories. The revisions to the length categories aim to reflect length categorisation used in specific regulation and licensing conditions. The current quota and effort regulations make a distinction between the ten metre and under, and over ten metre fleets, while the electronic reporting and recording system (ERS), introduced in 2010, has a staggered adoption based on vessel length. The ERS adoption length groups are; vessels of 24m and over, 15-24m and 12-15m. An additional categorisation used for 24m and over vessels is 24m-40m, and over 40m, to align with the length categories used in the widely recognised Seafish fleet segmentation criteria.
2.2.2 Size of the Scottish fleet by age
Over two thirds of the Scottish fleet of known age are at least 20 years or older, with an average age of 28 (Table 2.2 and Chart 2.2). Vessels of 10 years old but less than 15 years old account for six per cent of the total fleet by number and 19 per cent of the total fleet by power, with a total power of 66,604 kW. Within the 10 years old but less than 15 years old category, vessels over 40 metres in length account for 74 per cent of the total power for this age category.
Chart 2.2 Size, capacity and power of the Scottish fleet by age: 2016
2.2.3 Size of the Scottish fleet by administration district
Figure 2.1 and Table 2.3 shows the number of vessels in each of the eighteen administration districts in Scotland. Stornoway and Fraserburgh are the two largest districts in terms of vessel numbers with 20 per cent of Scottish vessels in these two districts. In 2016, there were 208 vessels operating from Stornoway and 207 vessels under the operating from Fraserburgh. Over three quarters of the vessels in the Stornoway district were in the ten metre and under category. Within the Fraserburgh administration district, 55 per cent of the vessels were ten metres and under in length. Ayr had 43 per cent of vessels over ten metre and 57 per cent of vessels ten metre and under. Lochinver is the only district to have more over ten metre vessels (57 per cent) than ten metre and under vessels.
2.2.4 Size of the Scottish fleet by fishing method
The ten metre and under fleet is dominated by vessels using creels to fish, namely traps in the form of cages or baskets, typically baited and used to target shellfish species. In 2016, 88 per cent of the 1,464 ten metre and under vessels were creel fishing vessels. Of the 569 over ten metre vessels, 64 per cent were shellfish vessels whilst 33 per cent were demersal. Only 19 vessels were pelagic, 95 per cent of which were over 40 metres in length. Of the pelagic vessels, 17 are pelagic trawlers and the remaining two are purse seiners. Creel fishing vessels and Nephrops trawlers dominate the over ten metre shellfish group, whilst trawlers dominate the demersal group (Table 2.4, 2.5 and 2.6).
Figure 2.1 Number of vessel in the Scottish fleet by district:
2.3 Effort in the Cod Recovery Zone
The Cod Recovery Zone (CRZ) comprises of sea areas in which restrictions exist on fishing effort by vessels over ten metres using certain regulated gears. A map of the areas covered by the CRZ is given in Annex 6. These measures aim to reduce cod mortality and encourage recovery of the vulnerable cod stocks. Introduced in February 2003, the CRZ covered specified gears that catch considerable amounts of cod in the North Sea and the West of Scotland. The regime was expanded in 2004 to include the Irish Sea. Eight regulated gears were specified, as detailed in the glossary, and the effort of Scottish vessels using these regulated gears are presented in Table 2.7.a. Please note that the figures are presented for the calendar year although the annual effort control measures cover a twelve month period from 1 February to 31 January.
Trends for the two most cod-intensive gear grouping Whitefish (TR1) and Nephrops (TR2) that dominate the effort by the Scottish over ten metre fleet are discussed by sea area in each of the paragraphs below. Whitefish (TR1) gears include bottom trawls and seines of mesh size greater or equal to 100 mm, and these gears typically target whitefish, including cod. The Nephrops (TR2) gear type includes bottom trawls and seines of mesh size greater than or equal to 70 mm and less than 100 mm, and typically target Nephrops, but also catch considerable amounts of cod.
During 2016 effort using whitefish (TR1) and Nephrops (TR2) gears in the North Sea was managed together, for consistent time series the information has been presented separately for comparability.
In 2016, effort using whitefish (TR1) and Nephrops (TR2) gears in the North Sea reached 12.2 million kW days and 1.4 million kW days respectively (Table 2.7.a and Chart 2.3). Compared to 2015, effort for whitefish (TR1) gears increase by 18 per cent in the North Sea whilst effort for Nephrops (TR2) gears decreased 45 per cent, a reflection on the poor Nephrops availability in the North Sea. Longer term trends show that Nephrops (TR2) effort in the North Sea had a fairly stable period until 2010 when effort of TR2 gears decreased. This decrease in effort has continued each year up to 2016. Whitefish (TR1) effort decreased significantly between 2000 and 2004, partially as a result of decommissioning schemes. Effort for this gear type has declined since 2004, until 2013 which has seen effort increase slowly each year up to 2015. However in 2016 Whitefish (TR1) effort showed a marked increase.
Effort in the West of Scotland continues to be much lower than in the North Sea. Whitefish (TR1) gears had an effort uptake of 2.4 million kW days in the West of Scotland, an increase of three per cent since 2015. Effort for Nephrops (TR2) gears reached 3.8 million kW days, an increase of eight per cent from 2015. Whitefish (TR1) effort decreased 56 per cent between 2004 and 2006, again predominantly due to the reduction in fleet capacity following decommissioning schemes, but has been fairly stable from 2007 onwards. Since 2003, Nephrops (TR2) effort in the West of Scotland had shown a general downwards trend.
On 23 November 2016 the effort regime provided for under the Cod Recovery Plan (EC Reg 2008/1342) was repealed further to EU Regulation 2016/2094. As a consequence this will be the final report of Scottish sea fisheries statistics that will report on this matter.
Chart 2.3 Effort of Scottish vessels using whitefish (TR1) gear and Nephrops (TR2) gear in the Cod recovery Zone: 2000 to 2016
2.4 Number of fishermen
In 2016, 4,823 fishermen were employed on Scottish based vessels, representing 0.2 per cent of the total Scottish labour force. The number of fishermen employed on Scottish vessels was constant between 2015 to 2016 (Table 2.8 and Chart 2.4). In addition to regularly and irregularly employed fishermen, Scotland has a small number of crofters that engage in commercial fishing. A crofter is a person who occupies and works a small land-holding known as a croft and operates a system of small-scale subsistence farming. There were 51 crofters engaged in commercial fishing in 2016, consistent with 2015.
Since 1970, employment on Scottish based fishing vessels has fallen 49 per cent. This is shown in large decreases in each employment category; a decrease of 50 per cent in regular employment; a decrease of 35 per cent in irregular employment; and a decrease of 81 per cent in the number of crofters engaged in commercial fishing. These decreases in fishermen numbers could be attributed to reductions in fleet capacity and increased vessel efficiency.
Fraserburgh is the district with the largest number of fishermen. With 780 fishermen in total, Fraserburgh accounted for 16 per cent of the total number of fishermen on Scottish vessels in 2016. Fraserburgh is also the district with the largest number of fishermen who work regularly, with 615 regularly employed fishermen. Fraserburgh and Shetland each accounted for 18 per cent of the total number of irregularly employed fishermen. Portree and Stornoway were the only districts with crofters.
Chart 2.4 Number of fishermen employed on Scottish based vessels: 1970 to 2016