Provisional Scottish sea fisheries statistics 2018

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland

Latest figures show that in 2018, Scottish-registered fishing vessels landed 445 thousand tonnes of sea fish and shellfish with a value of £572 million. This represents an decrease of 20 thousand tonnes[1] (4%) and an increase of £12 million (no significant change in real terms[2]) from 2017.

There were 2,087 active Scottish registered fishing vessels in 2018, an increase of 1% from 2017. The number of fishers working on these vessels was 4,857, which is 58 (1%) higher than in 2017 (4,799).

Table 1. Landings by Scottish registered vessels 2018




Change from 2017



Change from 2017 (real terms)1






















Pelagic species

Mackerel remains the most valuable stock to the Scottish fleet, accounting for 29% (£163 million) of the total value of Scottish landings. In 2018, Scottish registered vessels landed 15% less mackerel by weight (153 thousand tonnes), in line with a fall in available quota. The value of mackerel landings only decreased by 1% in real terms compared to 2017, reflecting strong mackerel prices above £1,000 per tonne on average. 

Of the total weight of mackerel landed by Scottish vessels, 52% was landed into Scotland and 48% was landed abroad. The average price of mackerel landed abroad increased by 21% to £1,084 per tonne in 2018. Similarly, the average price of mackerel landed into Scotland increased by 16% to £1,047 per tonne. Mackerel prices have returned to the historic pattern of being higher abroad than in Scotland, on average.

In 2018, the weight of herring landed by Scottish vessels increased by 15% to 65 thousand tonnes and the value increased by 1% to £24 million, indicating falling prices.

Demersal species

Cod, haddock and monkfish are the most valuable demersal species to the Scottish fleet. The value of cod landings (£44 million) slightly exceeded the value of haddock landings (£43 million), becoming the most valuable demersal species (previously it had been haddock).

Both the value and tonnage of cod landed in 2018 rose by a quarter compared to 2017. Nineteen thousand tonnes worth £44 million were landed. The value of haddock landings decreased by 1% in real terms to £43 million while tonnage landed increased 3% to 29 thousand tonnes. The value of monkfish landings increased 5% to £39 million in spite of a 2% decrease in tonnage to 13 thousand tonnes.


Overall the shellfish sector saw decreases in tonnage and value, driven by lower landings of Nephrops, scallops and velvet crabs. Nephrops (Norway lobster or langoustine) are the most valuable shellfish species and the second most valuable species overall to the Scottish fleet, accounting for 11% of landings by value. In 2018, the total value of Nephrops was £63 million, which is 18% lower than 2017. There was a 16% decrease in tonnage landed to 18 thousand tonnes.

Scottish fishing fleet

The number of active Scottish registered fishing vessels in 2018 was 2,087, an increase of 19 vessels (1%) from 2017. The change in vessel numbers was largely due to 20 additional creelers of under 10m.

At the end of 2018, the number of vessels in:

  • The under 10m fleet increased by 32 to 1,538 vessels
  • The 10 metre and over fleet decreased by 13 to 549 vessels

o   demersal fleet remained exactly the same at 184 vessels

o   shellfish fleet decreased by 12 to 346 vessels

o   pelagic fleet decreased by 1 vessel to 19 vessels


In 2018, the overall number of fishers working on Scottish fishing vessels was reported at 4,857, which is 1% up on the figure reported in 2017. However, the number of regularly employed fishers increased by 100 (3%), irregularly employed fishers decreased by 41 (5%) and the number of crofters reported decreased from 6 to 5. This shift from irregular to regular employment continues the differences seen in 2017.

Ten Year Trends

Compared to 2009, in 2018 the tonnage of fish landed was up 18% and real terms value was up 11%.

Table 2. Percentage change in Scottish vessels’ landings 2009-2018


Change in tonnage landed

Change in value
(real terms)1













In keeping with other European nations, the Scottish fishing fleet has generally been reducing in number over the past ten years, down 89 vessels (4%) in 2018 compared to 2009. There have been changes in composition of the fleet, with 144 fewer 10m and over vessels and an increase of 55 under-10m vessels, which are primarily engaged in creeling.

UK Fish Quota Uptake

Uptake of quota was high overall for the major pelagic fish stocks. Uptake of West of Scotland mackerel was over quota, at 101%, while West of Scotland herring uptake was at 92%. Uptake of North Sea mackerel and herring was over 98%.

West of Scotland haddock quota uptake for area VIb was 82% and for areas VIa and Vb it was 85%, monkfish at 92%, and cod (area VIb) at 98%. For other West of Scotland demersal stocks quota uptake was varied, ranging from 49% (megrim) to 115% (whiting).

North Sea monkfish quota uptake was at 74%, with haddock at 84% and cod at 90%. Other North Sea demersal stocks ranged from 35% (plaice) to 92% (saithe).

Quota uptake for West of Scotland Nephrops was 65%, while uptake for North Sea Nephrops was only 50%. This reflects low uptake of Nephrops quota in recent years.


[1] All weights in these statistics are in tonnes of live weight equivalent, or what the whole fish would have weighed when it was freshly taken from the water (before any processing).

[2] Change in £ values are calculated in real terms at 2018 prices, after taking account of inflation.


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