Fisheries - Sea Fisheries

High Level Summary of Statistics Trend Last update: September 2015: Sea Fisheries

The graph below displays the value of all landings by Scottish based vessels for the years 2010 – 2014.

HLSS Chart 1 - Sep 2015

The total value of fish landed by Scottish registered vessels in 2014 was £514 million, an increase of 18 per cent in real terms compared with 2013. The quantity of fish landed increased 31 per cent to 481 thousand tonnes.

The increase in value of fish landings in 2014 was driven predominantly by an increase in the real terms value of pelagic species, although there was an increase in value for all three species types. The increase in volume of fish landed was a result of a large increase in the volume of pelagic landings, even though there was a decrease in demersal and shellfish landings:

•             Pelagic – 42 per cent increase in real terms value, 63 per cent increase in volume

•             Demersal – one per cent increase in real terms value, 13 per cent decrease in volume

•             Shellfish – eight per cent increase in real terms value, one per cent decrease in volume


The Scottish Government has set a National Indicator to improve the state of Scotland’s marine environment. The indicator measures the proportion of key Scottish commercial species landed by Scottish fishing vessels where the total allowable catch (TAC) limit is consistent with the scientific guidance. Some of our key stocks have been at historically low levels in recent years and we want to ensure that fish stocks are healthy and sustainable for future generations.

In 2014, the proportion (calculated as a three-year moving average) of Scotland's key commercial fish stocks where the total allowable catch was set in line with scientific guidance was 38 per cent. In 2013, this figure was 44 per cent. The six percentage point decrease in the proportion of fish stocks where quota was set in line with scientific guidance observed for 2014 compared with 2013 was a substantial change (out-with three percentage points) indicating performance worsening.

The main reason for this decrease is due to the mackerel crisis 2010-2014. Due to the formula used to calculate the indicator, mackerel has a significant bearing upon its performance. The mackerel TAC has not been set in line with scientific advice since 2011. However, had it been during this period, the indicator would now be at 88%. 

For 2015, scientific advice as provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) recommended a TAC of 831,000-906,000 tonnes. This was based on the 2008 management plan which is still considered precautionary by ICES but may no longer maximise long-term yield.  A review of the management plan is underway in 2015.

The 2015 mackerel TAC was set at 1.05 million tonnes in line with the ICES Precautionary Approach.  This exceeds the scientific advice based on the amount which should result in the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 37,000 tonnes.  Although Scotland and the EU did not want to exceed the advice, this additional catch was needed to secure a three-party agreement in the international negotiation. Without the agreement combined unilateral TACs would have been set and more significantly exceeded the MSY advice.  Most importantly, this higher catch level has been assessed by ICES as posing no additional risk to the size of the stock in 2016 when compared to the MSY advice.

    HLSS Chart 2 - Sep 2015

The proportion of Scotland's key commercial fish stocks where the TAC was set in line with scientific guidance currently stands at 38 per cent. This is 32 percentage points below the 2015 target level.


Note (1): Stocks for which there was no available scientific advice for the year, or where the advice was unclear, have been counted as if the TAC was not consistent with the advice.

Note (2): For each year, the calculation of the proportion of fish stocks used data weighted by value for that year. Landings data for 2015 was estimated by 2014 landings data.

Note (3): Each point on the graph refers to the proportion of fish stocks where the TAC was set within scientific advice calculated over the three year period centred on that year.