2. The Scottish fishing fleet
This chapter brings together information on the structure of the Scottish fleet, 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.
2.1 Regulation of the UK fleet
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. To fish commercially, 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 31st December of the year of reference. Scottish registered vessels are those registered to a port in Scotland which is 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 retained on-board. 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 capacity to meet the European Union regulations for sustainable fisheries management. Initially, the licensing regime only covered vessels of over ten metres registered length and fishing for a number of designated species in specific areas. The coverage of licences has progressively extended over the years to cover all species if fished commercially and both the over ten metre fleet and ten 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.
2.2 Size of the Scottish fleet
The number of active Scottish registered vessels has fallen to 2,015 vessels in 2015, representing a 0.7 per cent decrease (15 vessels) since 2014 and a nine per cent decrease (209 vessels) since 2006 ( Table 2.1 and Chart 2.1).
The total power of the Scottish fleet has decreased to 354,056 kW, down two per cent from 2014. Since 2014, the total power of the over ten metre fleet has decreased three per cent to 275,046 kW whereas the total power of the ten metre and under fleet increased 0.4 per cent to 79,011 kW.
Chart 2.1 Size of the Scottish fleet: 2006 to 2015
2.2.1 Size of the Scottish fleet by length
By quantity of vessels, the Scottish fleet is dominated by vessels with a length of ten metres and under, with 1,449 vessels falling into this category in 2015. These account for 72 per cent of the Scottish fleet. There are 566 vessels with a length of over ten metres ( Table 2.1). In contrast, the over ten metre fleet holds 78 per cent of the total power of the Scottish fleet.
The average power for the over ten metre fleet was 486 kW per vessel in 2015, whereas the ten metre and under vessels had an average power of 55 kW per vessel. Compared to 2006, average power has seen little change in both the ten metre and under fleet and the over ten metre fleet, with an increase of three per cent and six per cent respectively. This increase in average power for an individual vessel occurs against the general trend of decreasing vessel numbers and aggregated fleet power. For the ten metre and under fleet, vessel numbers have decreased five per cent and total power has decreased by one per cent between 2006 and 2015. The over ten metre fleet has seen vessel numbers decrease by 20 per cent since 2006 and a 15 per cent decrease in total power.
As well as providing figures for the number, capacity and power of the over ten metre and ten metre and under fleets, figures are given for revised length categories. The revisions to the length categories aim to reflect length categorisation used in relevant regulation and licensing conditions. The current quota and effort regulations make a distinction between the ten metre and under, and over ten 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 are; 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 with the length categories used in the widely recognised Seafish fleet segmentation criteria.
2.2.2 Size of the Scottish fleet by age
Over two thirds of the Scottish fleet of known age are at least 20 years or older, with an average age of 27 ( Table 2.2 and Chart 2.2). Vessels that are 10 years old but less than 15 years old account for seven per cent of the total fleet by number and 23 per cent of the total fleet by power, with a total power of 80,725 kW. Within the 10 years old but less than 15 years old category, vessels over 40 metres in length account for 70 per cent of the total power for this age category.
Chart 2.2 Size, capacity and power of the Scottish fleet by age: 2015
2.2.3 Size of the Scottish fleet by administration district
Figure 2.1 and Table 2.3 shows the number of vessels in each of the eighteen administration districts in Scotland. Stornoway and Fraserburgh are the two largest districts in terms of vessel numbers with 20 per cent of Scottish vessels in these two districts. In 2015, there were 210 vessels under the responsibility of Stornoway and 200 vessels under the responsibility of Fraserburgh. Over three quarters of the vessels in the Stornoway district were in the ten metre and under category. Within the Fraserburgh administration district, 54 per cent of the vessels were ten metres and under in length and 46 per cent were over ten metres. Ayr had similar proportions of over ten metre (43 per cent) and ten metre and under (57 per cent) vessels to Fraserburgh. Lochinver is the only district to have more over ten metre vessels (60 per cent) than ten metre and under vessels.
2.2.4 Size of the Scottish fleet by fishing method
The ten metre and under fleet is dominated by vessels using creels to fish, namely traps in the form of cages or baskets, typically baited and used to target shellfish species. In 2015, 88 per cent of the 1,449 ten metre and under vessels were creel fishing vessels. Of the 566 over ten metre vessels, 64 per cent were shellfish vessels whilst 32 per cent were demersal. Only 20 vessels were pelagic, 95 per cent of which were over 40 metres in length. Of the pelagic vessels, 18 are pelagic trawlers and the remaining two are purse seiners. Creel fishing vessels and Nephrops trawlers dominate the over ten metre shellfish group, whilst trawlers dominate the demersal group ( Table 2.4, 2.5 and 2.6).
Figure 2.1 Number of vessel in the Scottish fleet by district: 2015
2.3 Effort in the Cod Recovery Zone
The Cod Recovery Zone ( CRZ) comprises of sea areas in which restrictions exist on fishing effort by vessels over ten metres using certain regulated gears. A map of the areas covered by the CRZ is given in Annex 6. The CRZ 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.a. 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 groupings, Whitefish ( TR1) and Nephrops ( TR2) which dominate the effort by the Scottish over ten 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 100 mm, and these gears typically target whitefish, including cod. The Nephrops ( TR2) gear type includes bottom trawls and seines of mesh size greater than or equal to 70 mm and less than 100 mm, and typically target Nephrops, but also catch considerable amounts of cod.
In 2015, effort using whitefish ( TR1) and Nephrops ( TR2) gears in the North Sea reached 10.4 million kW days and 2.6 million kW days respectively ( Table 2.7.a and Chart 2.3). Compared to 2014, effort for whitefish ( TR1) gears increase by one per cent in the North Sea whilst effort for Nephrops ( TR2) gears decreased 23 per cent, a reflection on the poor Nephrops availability in the North Sea. Longer term trends show that Nephrops ( TR2) effort in the North Sea had a fairly stable period until 2011 when effort of TR2 gears decreased. This decrease in effort has continued each year up to 2015. Whitefish ( TR1) effort decreased significantly between 2000 and 2004, partially as a result of decommissioning schemes. Effort for this gear type has declined since 2004 but from 2013 it has slowly increased each year up to 2015.
Effort in the West of Scotland continues to be much lower than in the North Sea. Whitefish ( TR1) gears had an effort uptake of 2.4 million kW days in the West of Scotland, an increase of 24 per cent since 2014. Effort for Nephrops ( TR2) gears reached 3.5 million kW days, a decrease of three per cent from 2014. Whitefish ( TR1) effort decreased 63 per cent between 2003 and 2006, again predominantly due to the reduction in fleet capacity following decommissioning schemes, but has been fairly stable from 2007 onwards. Since 2003, Nephrops ( TR2) effort in the West of Scotland had shown a general downwards trend.
Chart 2.3 Effort of Scottish vessels using whitefish ( TR1) gear and Nephrops ( TR2) gear in the Cod recovery Zone: 2000 to 2015
West of Scotland
2.4 Number of fishermen
In 2015, 4,823 fishermen were employed on Scottish registered vessels, representing 0.2 per cent of the total Scottish labour force. The number of fishermen employed on Scottish vessels increased by one per cent (27 persons) from 2014 to 2015 ( Table 2.8 and Chart 2.4). In addition to regularly and irregularly employed 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 51 crofters engaged in commercial fishing in 2015, two less than there was in 2014.
Since 1970, employment on Scottish registered fishing vessels has fallen 49 per cent. This is shown by large decreases in each employment category; a decrease of 48 per cent in regular employment; a decrease of 45 per cent in irregular employment; and a decrease of 81 per cent in the number of crofters engaged in commercial fishing. These decreases in fishermen numbers could be attributed to reductions in overall fleet capacity and increased vessel efficiency.
Fraserburgh is the district with the largest number of fishermen. At 753 fishermen in total, Fraserburgh accounted for 16 per cent of the total number of fishermen on Scottish vessels in 2015. Fraserburgh is also the district with the largest number of fishermen who work regularly, with 616 regularly employed fishermen. Fraserburgh and Shetland each accounted for 17 per cent of the total number of irregularly employed fishermen. Portree and Stornoway were the only districts with crofters.
Chart 2.4 Number of fishermen employed on Scottish registered vessels: 1970 to 2015