Fishers - strategies and choices: feasibility study

This social research publication explores what influences the decision making of Scottish fishers. It presents findings from twelve interviews with fishers. The main findings are focused on the social, economic, governance, and environmental drivers in fishers’ decision making.

Annex 8 : Interview Summaries

Question Summary
Please note that background data collected through questions Q1-Q6 is summarised in the main body of the report.
Q7 Please take me through your day and the sorts of decisions you make? How are practical considerations (e.g., crew availability, best use of time and resources) impacting on your job and the decisions you make? Daily decisions mainly focus on environmental conditions such as weather and tides. This typically determines where and what fish species to catch. In addition, crew related issues were commonly mentioned due to the difficulty in recruitment and retainment, particularly for the medium to larger-sized vessels.
Q8 Please take me through your next three months and the sorts of decisions you will make? When planning over a 3-month period, weather is a key consideration, largely informed by weather forecasts and season. In addition, quota availability is a major factor in decision making as it dictates the legal amount fishers can harvest per fish species. Therefore, fishers must forecast their fishing operations to ensure they do not exceed their allocated quota and do not catch any non-quota species. Due to the seasonality of fishing, crew related issues are still a problem as it is difficult to attract workers to do seasonal work when the money is relatively low.
Q9 Please take me through a ‘normal’ year for you, and the kinds of decisions you make? How are wider circumstances (i.e., marine policies and regulations, political changes, climate change) impacting on your job and the decisions you make? On an annual basis, legislation and regulations are the primary factors influencing fisher decisions. This is mainly based on the introduction of new policies and stricter regulations which fishers feel are reducing fishing opportunities. In particular, fishers mentioned windfarms, MPAs and HPMAs which fishers believe are increasing the pressure on the industry. This has resulted in wide spread concern and reluctance to invest in the industry due to the uncertainty on the viability of fishing businesses in the future.
Q10 Overall, which of those decisions is the most critical, and why? The most critical decisions for the fishers were a mix of legislation and regulation, weather, crew and quota availability.
Q11 What is important for you when making longer term decisions on fishing? (Whether to fish, where, when, and how to fish next year) When making long-term decisions, fishers emphasised the most important factors were weather, season and quota.
Q12 Have you changed fisheries in the last 5 years? Out of the 12 fishers interviewed, only two fishers had changed fisheries in the past five years.
Q13 Which fishery have you changed from and to? One of the fishers said he had changed from fishing prawns full time to prawns and brown crab, while the other fisher had to change from scallops to prawns because his vessel's scallop entitlement had frozen. In addition to the two fishers who said they had switched fisheries, one fisher mentioned he had diversified to targeting cuttlefish in the channel.
Q14 What were the factors which drove this change? The rationale for changing fishery was primarily based on fish abundance, change in regulation and loss of income.
Q15 Have you changed your vessel in the last five years and what change did you make (e.g. decarbonisation, engine size)? Out of the 12 fishers interviewed, only three fishers had changed vessel in the past five years, largely to improve crew safety, fuel efficiency and ensure best quality for the fish being landed. One fisher did buy a boat six years ago to accommodate his son working with him.
Q16 How are your personal circumstances impacting on your job, or affecting the decisions you make in your work? (e.g., family considerations, your values, mental health, any other personal reasons)? Personal circumstances were shown to have a major impact on fisher decision making. Many fishers are now trying to create a better work-life balance, although this is largely due to the age range of fishers interviewed who want to spend more time with their children and grandchildren. However, one fisher explained that he had come ashore to manage his business due to his mental health which had suffered from the strain of trying to make a business work against a backdrop of regulation and environmental NGOs constantly targeting the fishing industry.
Q17 Which of the following policies are you aware of? In what ways do they influence on your work? The majority of fishers said they were not aware of the Blue Economy Vision policy and therefore it did not have an influence on their work.
All the interviewed fishers were aware of REM and some said it would have an influence on their work.
All the interviewed fishers were aware of MPAs and said they have an impact on their work.
There was a 50/50 split between the number of fishers who were aware of Scotland’s Fisheries Management Statement
The majority of fishers said they were aware of The Future Catching Policy
The majority of fishers said they were aware of Just Transition to Net Zero and there were mixed opinions of the benefits to fishers.
All the interviewed fishers were aware of The Bute House Agreement and many fishers expressed concern regarding the designation of HPMAs and emphasised the industry strongly disagreed with them based on the lack of evidence or data.
Q18 Have you seriously considered leaving the fishing industry? Out of the 12 fishers interviewed, five fishers had seriously considered leaving the industry, with only one fisher actually leaving and then returning. Many fishers see fishing as their way of life, however, a few fishers explained that due to the stress of crew issues, the constant barrage of pressure from environmental NGOs, the squeeze on fishing grounds and the impact it has had on their mental health it is a consideration.
Q19 What made you consider leaving, and what made you stay? Out of a list of several factors posed to fishers, the factors influencing fisher decisions to leave or stay in the industry were mainly social, economic and governance.
Q20 Would you like to add anything else? A few fishers made further points on the lack of government understanding on how important fishing is and the social and economic support it provides to rural coastal communities. Many fishers wish to see Marine Scotland champion the industry by engaging more with industry with regards to new policies and regulations which benefit both the fishers and status of the fishery. Recently, there has been a loss in social capital and trust between government and industry due to the increased pressure and negative publicity on the industry. Stricter regulations and the manner in which they are enforced, particularly by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) was described as a negative and stressful experience. However, fishers are still keen to work with government, share their data and help promote the industry to protect their livelihoods and the communities which depend on them.



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