Trial mackerel inshore fishery 2014-2017: review

A background to the creation of the inshore mackerel fisheries and review of the impacts of the 2014-17 trial period of expanded access and quota allocation.

Review of trial fishery

Over the past four years, the Scottish Government has managed the fishery to facilitate economic benefits from the fishery for local communities and ensure that it is open for 12 weeks or longer over the summer months.

Anticipated benefits and issues

A wide range of stakeholders responded to the 2013 consultation about the expanded inshore mackerel fishery. In general the expanded inshore mackerel fishery was considered to offer potential opportunities to increase existing fishing activities and establish the fishery in new areas, increase employment in fishing and related onshore activities, provide access to the fishery for new entrants and provide wider economic benefits to coastal communities. Some stakeholders had concerns about potential negative impacts of the fishery such as markets being flooded by the additional fish resulting in lower prices for the mackerel.

Diversification, increased employment and participation

Stakeholders considered that the expanded mackerel fishery could offer diversification opportunities for small scale fishermen who otherwise fish for non-quota species such as crab and lobster. It was felt that an increased opportunity for mackerel could have the potential to take pressure off these non-quota species and provide an additional source of revenue. In Orkney, for example, there were expectations that much greater numbers of fishermen could participate in the fishery.

Expansion of opportunities and markets

Improved marketing opportunities and better prices due to the higher volumes of fish were predicted by some stakeholders who felt that the higher volumes would help to establish markets. In the areas where there was no established fishery such as the West of Scotland, it was hoped that the increased opportunities would support the development of a high-value, small scale fishery and the development of onshore processing activity and employment opportunities. Whilst in in Shetland it was considered that an increase in fish would improve markets and prices for line caught mackerel.

New entrants

It was acknowledged that the trial fishery, at least in the short run, would be continue to pursued by existing fishermen. It was felt nonetheless that unrestricted access to the fishery (and the additional quota) would help to reduce barriers to entry and encourage new entrants as it is a relatively low cost way into the fishery for new skippers.

Constraints and opposition

Some notes of caution were sounded about the availability of markets for the fish, remoteness from major fishing ports, onshore facilities and processing factories, and the high cost of specialised transport making it unviable to send fish to processing factories in the north east or elsewhere.

In addition, the availability of fish in particular locations fluctuates from year to year as areas of Scotland have more natural abundance than others.

Some were concerned that the expansion of the fishery, through new vessels, might lead to overcapacity in the inshore fleet and damage the markets and prices, with fears that the market could collapse due to oversupply. It was considered that inshore fishermen may then have to accept lower prices for the fish due to the increase in quota.

Reputational damage to Scottish mackerel was considered to be a risk due to poorly handled fish and lack of vessel and onshore facilities such as on-board chilling equipment.


Email: Ross Parker

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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