Fishing vessels - economic link: island communities impact assessment (ICIA)

An island communities impact assessment (ICIA) of changes to Scottish economic link licence conditions contained in Scottish fishing vessels.

Step Two – Gather Your Data And Identify Your Stakeholders

What data is available about the current situation in the islands?

All commercial fishing vessels are required to provide information on their fishing activities. This includes species caught, area of capture, type of fishing gear used, and port of landing. Given the number of vessels involved, this gives rise to a significant data set.

Below we set out data held in relation to:

1. Landings by all vessels registered in selected island community 2015-2019. Please go to the modelling in Annex B.

2. Data on how the allocation of gifted quota benefited island communities between 2015-2019

Established practice has been for the Scottish Government to award catching opportunities arising from gifted quota to the 10 metre and under, non-sector group (“10mu”). It is important to note that the management arrangements for this group differ significantly for arrangements for sectoral vessels.[2]

Catch opportunities for stocks covered by Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for the 10mu vessels are limited and they fish against a common, national pool of quota. The Scottish Government has sought to utilise fishing opportunities arising from gifted quota to extend fishing opportunities for the 10mu sector.

For the period 2015-2019, the following quotas arising from gifted quota were awarded to the Scottish 10mu group on at least one occasion:

  • North Sea: cod, haddock, whiting, anglerfish, skates and rays, ling, Nephrops, hake.
  • West of Scotland: pollack

Please see Annex C – Allocation of gifted quota and final uptake for 10mu non-sector vessels in period 2015-2019 for a breakdown of quantities provided in each year.

It should be noted that the Scottish Government seeks to obtain fishing opportunities, for stocks where there has been an identifiable fishing need by 10mu vessels.

Below we now present an analysis of how 10 mu vessels in each of the island communities explored have benefited from quota gifting in the period 2015-19. Please also see Annex D – Landings by island vessels of stocks that Scottish Government received the gifted quota between 2015-2019 for further details.


Orkney administered vessels in the 10mu group overwhelmingly focus on shellfish stocks which are not restricted by TACs and therefore have relatively low landings of quota stocks. This is reflected in the landings data, for example, catches of North Sea stocks such as cod (5 tonnes) and Nephrops (17 tonnes) by 10mu vessels during the period. That being the case, fishing opportunities arising from gifted quota have not been utilised by Orkney based 10mu vessels to any significant degree.


Of the three island communities explored, Shetland administered 10mu vessels land the greatest volume of demersal fish covered by TACs. Given this catching capacity the Scottish Government has sought gifted quota to allow for additional catching opportunities which has benefitted these vessels. In particular, Shetland 10mu vessels have benefitted from opportunities obtained from gifted quota for North Sea cod (Shetland vessels catch nearly 90% of all catches by the 10mu fleet, anglerfish (Shetland vessels catch 40% of all catches by the 10mu grouping) and skates and rays (Shetland vessels caught 65% of all catches by the 10mu fleet during the period).

Western Isles

Landings of shellfish and Nephrops (West of Scotland) dominate landings made by vessels administered in the Western Isles. 10 metre and under Vessels based in the Western Isles land relatively small opportunities for quota species and therefore of the three island communities explored, they saw the least benefit from fishing opportunities arising from the distribution of quota gifts.

Landings of key species into and out with Scotland

As can be seen in Table 4 above, between 2015-2019, vessels registered in Shetland landed most of their catch 62% abroad (this high proportion is on account of Shetland’s pelagic fleet) and 38% into Scotland (landed by the vast majority of the Shetland based fleet). Vessels registered in Orkney and the Western Isles landed 99% of their catch into Scotland with only 1% of their landings abroad for Orkney and no landings abroad by vessels from the Western Isles.

Landings into the rest of the UK were less than 1% for all islands.

For further details, please refer to the table 4: Total landings of eight key quota species by vessels based in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles (Stornoway) abroad and into Scotland between 2015-2019.

Who are your key Stakeholders?

  • Aberdeen Fish Producers’ Organisation
  • Aberdeenshire Council
  • Argyll and Bute Council
  • Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
  • Denholm Fishselling
  • Interfish
  • Klondyke Group
  • Lunar Group (Producer Organisation, Fishing and Processing)
  • Macduff Shellfish (Scotland) Ltd
  • Orkney Fisheries Association
  • Orkney Fishermen's Society Ltd
  • Pelagia Shetland
  • Scottish Association of Fish Producer Organisations
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation
  • Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association
  • Scottish Pelagic Processors Association Ltd
  • Scottish Seafood Association
  • Scottish Whitefish Producers Association Ltd
  • Shetland Fish Producer Organisation
  • Shetland Fishermen’s Association
  • Shetland Islands Council
  • United Kingdom Association of Fish Producer Organisations
  • West of Scotland Fish Producer Organisation
  • Western Isles Fishermen’s Association

How does any existing data differ between islands?

The data used in modelling is of the same standard for all islands.

Are there any existing design features or mitigations in place?

To address concerns raised over a potential lack of pelagic processing capacity, the landings target is to be increased incrementally to 55% over three years for pelagic stocks.

Presently, many in the pelagic fleet meet the economic link licence condition via the crewing provision. The removal of this option is expected to impact those vessels in particular as it is expected that they will need to change their landing patterns at least to some extent to comply with the new condition (or provide quota gifts). Therefore, a staged approach is to be introduced with a 30% landing target in year 1, rising to 40% in year 2, before reaching the full 55% in year 3.

Feedback received during the consultation highlighted a lack of processing capacity and/or market for some quota species in Scotland. Taking into account this feedback, the Scottish Government will limit the species covered by the landings target to the eight most valuable species landed into Scotland. These are herring, mackerel, Nephrops, haddock, monkfish, cod, hake and whiting.

In addition, the tonnage at which vessels will qualify for economic link criteria will increase from two to ten tonnes. This will remove from scope vessels landing relatively small amounts of the eight key species.

We would also highlight action the Scottish Government is already acting to support processors and market growth for Scottish fish.

For example, in 2021-22 we provided £14 million through our Marine Fund Scotland (MFS) to promote innovation in sustainable practices, allowing businesses to explore new markets, and supporting our coastal communities.[3] The MFS for 2022-23 has been updated to align with the Blue Economy Vision and will continue to enable projects aimed at delivering benefits and supporting innovation for the seafood and wider marine sectors.[4] We also worked with the key trade bodies across the wider food and drink sector to develop a COVID-19 Recovery Plan which was announced in November 2020 and have committed £15 million to support the plan through to 2023.[5]

A key element of support provided by the Scottish Government is the funding we deliver to Seafood Scotland, the national trade and marketing body for seafood in Scotland; a body which includes many fishing Producer Organisations.[6] [7]

The Scottish Government will keep the policy change under review and may adapt if necessary.



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