2. The Scottish fishing fleet
This chapter brings together information on the Scottish fleet structure, fishing effort by the Scottish fleet, and the number of fishermen employed in Scotland. A summary of how the UK fleet is regulated is provided to assist interpretation of the statistics.
A fishing vessel is a boat used to catch sea fish for profit. UK fishing vessels engaged in commercial sea fishing are required by law to be registered with the Registry of Shipping and Seamen ( RSS), part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. These commercial fishing vessels must also have a licence which specifies conditions that must be adhered to when fishing activity is being pursued. For the purpose of this statistical bulletin, active vessels are those which are both registered and licensed as of 31 st December of the year of reference. Scottish based vessels are those licensed at and administered by a Scottish district.
UK fishing vessel licences authorise the sea areas in which a vessel can fish and the species of fish that can be targeted. Restrictive licensing was introduced in 1983 following agreement of the Common Fisheries Policy ( CFP) by the European Commission and has been used as the main tool to control UK fishing opportunities to meet the European Union regulations for sustainable fisheries management. Initially, the licensing regime only covered vessels over 10 metres registered length fishing for a number of designated species in specific areas. The coverage of licences has progressively extended over the years to cover all species and both the over 10 metre fleet and 10 metres and under fleet. The capacity of fishing vessels in terms of vessel tonnage and power is also controlled through licences. With a finite number of licences in existence and no new licences made available, this places a ceiling on the total number and capacity of vessels in the UK fishing fleet. In order to licence new vessels, fishermen must acquire one or more existing licences from other previously licensed vessels. When licences are transferred, or aggregated to form a larger licence unit, capacity penalties are applied. These capacity penalties together with the restricted number of licences on issue, form a mechanism resulting in reductions in the capacity of the UK fleet. Further reductions in the capacity of the UK fleet have resulted from successive decommissioning schemes. Designed to conserve vulnerable whitefish stocks, particularly cod, decommissioning removed vessels from the fleet in 1994-1997, 2001-2002 and 2003-2004.
The number of active Scottish based vessels has fallen to 2,095 vessels in 2011, the smallest fleet size ever recorded, representing a 3 per cent [55 vessels] decrease since 2010 and a 14 per cent decrease [348 vessels] compared to ten years ago. The total power of the Scottish fleet has also decreased to 387 thousand kWs. Year on year power comparisons should be made with caution, since figures in earlier years have been underestimated to an unknown degree due to under declaration of engine power on vessels licences. A concessionary licensing arrangement and a timetable for compliance was introduced in 1999 and vessel owners had until the end of 2004 to declare the true engine power. Comparisons on vessel capacity (tonnage) are also complicated due to revisions in the measurement methodology. Various national and international standards collectively known as gross registered tonnage ( GRT) were revised to a common EU standard known as gross tonnage ( GT). A phased programme of re-measurement was introduced in the UK in 1996 and completed by early 2004.
The Scottish fleet is dominated by 10 metre and under vessels, with 1,470 in 2011 accounting for 70 per cent of the Scottish fleet, while the over 10 metre fleet comprises 625 vessels. In contrast, in terms of power, the Scottish fleet is dominated by the over 10 metre fleet with a total power of 309 thousand kWs compared to the total power of 78 thousand kWs in the 10 metre and under fleet. Thus, the 10 metre and under fleet represents 20 per cent of the total power in the Scottish fleet. Looking at the average power, the 10 metre and under vessels have an average power of 53 kW per vessel, while the over 10 metre vessels have a much greater average power of 494 kW per vessel. Compared to 2005, the first year by which owners declared their true engine power, average power has seen little change in the 10 metre and under fleet and a five per cent increase in the over 10 metre fleet. This increased in average power for an individual vessel occurs against a general trend of decreasing vessel numbers and aggregate fleet power. For the over 10 metre fleet, vessel numbers have decreased by 13 per cent since 2005 and total power has decreased by nine per cent. The 10 metre and under fleet has seen a six per cent decrease in numbers and a five per cent decrease in fleet power between 2005 and 2011.
As well as providing figures for the number, capacity and power of the 10 metre and under and over 10 metre fleets, figures are given for revised length categories. The revisions to the length categories aim to reflect length categorisation used in specific regulation and licensing conditions. The current quota and effort regulations make a distinction between the 10 metre and under and over 10 metre fleets, while the electronic reporting and recording system ( ERS), introduced in 2010, has a staggered adoption based on vessel length. The ERS adoption length groups were; vessels of 24m and over, 15-24m and 12-15m. An additional categorisation used for 24m and over vessels is 24m-40m, and over 40m, to align the length categories used in the widely recognised Seafish fleet segmentation criteria.
Over half of the Scottish fleet are known to be at least 20 years old. Vessels under ten years account for just over ten per cent of the fleet in number, while with a total power of 120 thousand kWs these vessels represent over 30 per cent of the total power of the Scottish fleet, substantially more than any other age category. Within the under ten years age category, vessels over 10 metre account for 89 per cent of the total power for this age category.
Figure 2.1 shows the number of vessels at each of the eighteen administration districts in Scotland. Stornoway and Fraserburgh are the top two districts with 227 and 204 vessels within their responsibility in 2011, respectively. Within the Stornoway district over three quarters of the vessels are in the 10 metre and under fleet, while in the Fraserburgh district there was nearly an equal proportion of vessels in the 10 metre and under fleet, and the over 10 metre fleet. Ayr and Peterhead also have nearly equal numbers of vessels in the two fleets, while the remaining districts have a higher proportion of vessels in the 10 metre and under fleet than the over 10 metre fleet.
The 10 metre and under fleet is dominated by vessels using creel fishing, namely traps in the form of cages or baskets, typically baited and used to target Nephrops, crabs, lobsters, and other shellfish species. In 2011, 1285 vessels, nearly 90 per cent of the 10 metre and under fleet used creel fishing as their main fishing method. Creel fishing, Nephrop trawls and other fishing methods targeting shellfish, dominate in the over 10 metre fleet, with 372 vessels, equivalent to 60 per cent of the over 10 metre fleet using these methods in 2011. Fishing methods targeting demersal fish were used by 229 vessels in 2011, almost 40 per cent of the over 10 metre fleet, with demersal trawls being the fishing method used by the majority of these vessels. Pelagic fishing methods were utilised by 24 vessels, four percent of the over 10 metre fleet.
The Cod Recovery Zone ( CRZ) is sea areas in which restrictions exist on fishing effort by vessels 10 metres or over using certain regulated gears. A map of the areas covered by the CRZ is given in Annex 6. These measures aim to reduce cod mortality and encourage recovery of the vulnerable cod stocks. Introduced in February 2003, the CRZ covered specified gears that catch considerable amounts of cod in the North Sea and the West of Scotland. The regime was expanded in 2004 to include the Irish Sea. Eight regulated gears were specified, as detailed in the glossary, and the effort of Scottish vessels using these regulated gears are presented in Table 2.7. Please note that the figures are presented for the calendar year although the annual effort control measures cover a twelve month period from 1 February to 31 January.
Trends for the two most cod-intensive gear grouping Whitefish ( TR1) and Nephrops ( TR2) that dominate the effort by the Scottish over 10 metre fleet are discussed by sea area in each of the paragraphs below. Whitefish ( TR1) gears include bottom trawls and seines of mesh size greater or equal to 100mm, and these gears typically target whitefish, including cod. The Nephrops ( TR2) gear type includes bottom trawls and seines of mesh size greater or equal to 70mm and less than 100mm, and typically target Nephrops, but also catch considerable amounts of cod.
Effort using whitefish ( TR1) and Nephrops ( TR2) gears stood at 10.0 million kW days and 6.8 million kW days respectively in the North Sea in 2011 ( Table 2.7 and Chart 2.3). Compared to 2010, effort by whitefish ( TR1) gears decreased by four per cent in the North Sea and effort by Nephrops ( TR2) gears decreased by 18 per cent. Looking at longer term trends, whitefish ( TR1) effort declined significantly between 2000 and 2004, partially as a result of decommissioning schemes, but effort by both gear types has declined only slightly since 2004.
There is less effort by each gear type in the West of Scotland than in the North Sea, with whitefish ( TR1) gears standing at 2.1 million kW days in 2011 and Nephrops ( TR2) gear at 3.6 kW days. These represent an 11 per cent and six per cent decrease respectively in the West of Scotland compared to 2010. In the longer term, whitefish ( TR1) effort dropped by over 60 per cent between 2001 and 2005 (again predominantly due to the reduction in fleet capacity following decommissioning schemes) but has been broadly stable from 2006 onwards. Nephrops ( TR2) effort peaked in 2003 at 5.8 million kW days and has declined gradually since then.
The number of fishermen employed in the Scottish catching sector was 4,996 in 2011, this represents a decrease of four percent compared to 2010 and is the lowest number ever recorded ( Table 2.8 and Chart 2.4). This four per cent decrease was observed in both the number of regular fishermen and part time fishermen, at 4,067 and 877 in 2011, respectively. In addition to regular and part-time fishermen, Scotland has a small number of crofters that engage in commercial fishing. A crofter is a person who occupies and works a small land-holding known as a croft and operates a system of small-scale subsistence farming. There were 52 crofters engaged in commercial fishing in 2011, that represents no change compared to 2010. Over a longer time period, the previous ten years, the number of regular fishermen has decreased by seven per cent, the number of part-time fishermen has decreased by just under 30 per cent, and the number of crofters engaged in commercial fishing has halved. These decreases in fishermen numbers may be associated with reductions in the fleet capacity.
Fraserburgh is the district with the largest number of fishermen, at 788 fishermen in total it accounts for 16 per cent of the total number of fishermen on Scottish vessels. Shetland, with 197 part-time fishermen is the district with the largest number of part time fishermen. No part-time fishermen are found on vessels administered by Scrabster, Kinlochbervie and Oban districts, while Portree, Stornoway, Kinlochbervie and Lochinver are the only districts with crofters.