- Though respondents largely noticed no changes to their income or expenditure approximately a quarter noticed an increase in income which they attributed to CLP through more catch of better quality, and higher market prices of Nephrops.
- Several fishers commented on market prices and operational costs; the changes of which are largely unattributable to the CLP, however, increasing market price for Nephrops and some changes fuel or bait costs may have foundation in the CLP.
- Anecdotal evidence suggests that lobster and particularly crab stocks may have been declining and that Nephrops stocks may have been increasing as a result of the CLP, though many attribute the changes to natural population fluctuation, presence of fewer trawlers and seasonal variation.
- Ultimately, stock statuses of lobster and crab in the Outer Hebrides are unknown.
The following section explores some of the economic implications of the CLP. Researchers investigated changes to income and expenditure observed by fishers and the reasons they gave for the changes observed. Focus is then drawn to changes in market prices, operational costs and any changes to shellfish stocks and landings that had been noticed throughout the CLP period. It was difficult for both fishers and researchers to separate the impacts of the CLP from the impacts of wider economic climate on the local economy. Results should be interpreted with caution.
Income and Expenditure
Survey respondents largely reported no changes to their income or expenditure (Figure 8), however, nine (23%) respondents did notice an increase in income and a further three respondents noticed a decrease (n=39). Conversely, two respondents noticed an increase in expenditure and a further three noticed a decrease in their expenditure as a result of the CLP (n=38). Of those who noticed a decrease in income, one was not a pilot participant. This respondent also reported a decrease in expenditure. All other non-participants said that their finances had stayed the same. There was one pilot participant that felt their income had reduced and expenditures increased. They felt other vessels coming onto their grounds were compromising their lobster fishing and were investing in new gear, increasing their overheads. Survey respondents were allowed to expand on the reasons, which have been coded and are presented in Table 7.
|Number of respondents
|Respondents said that their income had increased because the Nephrops stocks had improved.
|Fishing more efficiently
|Respondents said that their income had increased because they could fish fewer creels for the same returns.
|Respondents said that their income had increased because bad weather meant fewer vessels were on the grounds.
|Respondents said that their income had increased because there are fewer creels on the grounds.
|Stayed the same
|No operational change
|Respondents said that their income had stayed the same as they have not had to alter their operational patterns as they were already fishing below the limits.
|Current economic climate
|Respondents said that their income has stayed the same because of the current cost of living crisis counters any benefit to income from the CLP.
|Limit is too high
|Respondent said that their income had stayed the same because the creel limits are still set too high.
|Respondents said that their income had stayed the same because of declining crab stocks.
|Respondents said that their income had stayed the same because it was too soon to tell if the CLP has made a marked difference to the fishing economy.
|Respondents said that their income had decreased because there have been other vessels coming onto their grounds.
|Current economic climate
|Respondents said that their expenditure had increased because of the rising cost of living, particularly after BREXIT.
|Investing in new gear
|Respondent said that their expenditure had increased because they annually invest in new gear to ensure that it is fishing economically.
|Stayed the same
|No operational change
|Respondents said that their expenditure had stayed the same as they have not had to alter their operational patterns as they were already fishing below the limits.
|Current economic climate
|Respondents said that their expenditures had stayed the same because of the rising cost of living.
|Respondents said that their expenditure had stayed the same because it was too soon to tell if the CLP has made a marked difference to the fishing economy.
|Respondents said that their expenditure had decreased because they fish less gear meaning lower bait costs, less gear loss and less fuel because less gear means a shorter day.
Interviewees were asked if the CLP impacted them economically in terms of income or expenditure. Of the 28 interviewees, seven (25%) said that they believed the CLP had in some way impacted them economically. Of these seven interviewees, six (21%) felt that the CLP had benefited them economically, giving higher catch, better quality, lower overheads and higher market prices on Nephrops at the time of interview. A sole respondent believed that they wouldn't be landing as many Nephrops because they are hauling fewer creels.
Some interviewees mentioned changing market prices. Two respondents said that the crab market opening up recently in China has led to better prices for brown crab. Consequently, there is now more competition on the grounds over crab. Three interviewees remarked on the rising prices for Nephrops, saying that it is supply and demand, larger individuals being caught or less bruised individuals. Conversely, three participants commented on the problem of inflation and were dissatisfied with market prices not rising to compensate. A respondent also stated that markets and the economy were one of his biggest concerns as a creel fisher.
Operational costs include fuel, gear and bait. Interview results suggested that there is increasing concern over the cost of fuel amongst the inshore fleet. Some fishers reported in their interviews that they have noticed vessels that would normally transition to the west side of the Hebrides had decided to stay east over the summer months. Whilst they speculate that the reason is that the Nephrops grounds are producing a good yield, it also cannot be ruled out that instead, the desire to stay put in the Minch on the east side is also in part to do with fuel costs, where the profits gained from targeting lobster in the summer would be impacted by the cost of extra fuel.
A total of nine interviewees are concerned about the rise in gear costs. Several interviewees commented on the costs of creels having dramatically increased, though likely not as a result of the CLP.
"The last time we bought creels they were about £80 each - £67 plus VAT. In a short space of time, it's increased to about £84 without the VAT and close to £100 once that's added." – Interviewee 14
At the time of interview, the cost of a crab/ lobster creel was reported to be roughly £100 (Including VAT), though the driver for increasing creel prices was thought to be the high price of steel. Two interviewees reported that their bait costs are down due to fishing fewer creels.
Shellfish stocks and landings
Interviewees were asked if they had noticed any changes in shellfish stocks since the CLP was initiated and whether they believe, from their personal experience, that the CLP had worked to improve their landings. Responses to both questions were variable. In terms of shellfish stocks, the majority of interviewees said that stocks were much the same with some referencing seasonal variation or naturally fluctuating populations as the reason for any changes. Two respondents felt that it was too early on in the CLP to make any assumptions about its effect on stocks.
For those six that said stocks are reducing, five mentioned declining crab stocks. It appears that this has been an ongoing problem before the CLP was initiated with a couple of fishers claiming the vivier vessels are the cause of the decline. Of the eight interviewees that believe stocks to be increasing or doing well, six referred to Nephrops stocks, one was non-specific and one thought lobster stocks would be improving as bad weather was keeping fishers ashore. Another fisher noted that lobster stocks should be improving as the minimum landing size (MLS) was increased a few years prior. For those that felt Nephrops stocks were improving, there was some skepticism over whether creel limitation was the driver behind the change. Fewer trawlers, seasonal variation and fewer vessels were also given as possible reasons for the improvement. Another fisher felt that they are not seeing so many large Nephrops.
The yield of lobster landings off the west of the Outer Hebrides was thought to be lower by one interviewee and another interviewee suspects that fishing fewer creels would lead to reduced catch. Two further interviewees noticed numerically that their catches have decreased. Both of these respondents fish for lobster and crab.
"Now we're catching 800 kgs on a good day. Sometimes only half a ton, even though we have increased our fishing effort. We used to catch 1.5 tons in a day regularly."
– Interviewee 14
The majority, however, believed that their landings have remained constant or improved. There were ten respondents that hadn't noticed any changes to their landings since the CLP was initiated or thought that it was too soon into the pilot to identify changes. Eleven respondents reported that landings had increased with the majority referencing catches of Nephrops. Many commented on the improved quality of their Nephrops landings with less bruising, larger individuals and less effort for the same returns.
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