Lowest number of fishermen ever recorded

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The Chief Executive of the Scottish Fishing Federation, Bertie Armstrong, has warned of severe economic and cost pressures facing the Scottish fleet as statistics show the lowest levels of fishermen ever recorded.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician published the statistics showing the number of Scottish fishermen, fishing vessels and the volume of sea fish and shellfish caught has fallen to record lows.

The number of fishermen in Scotland fell by 4%, the number of vessels fell by 3% and the quantity of sea fish and shellfish caught fell by 2%.

In the Stornoway landing district the number of voyages has also fallen dramatically from 8,880 in 2007 to 5,608 in 2011. The district however has the most vessels within its responsibility standing at 227 - over three quarters of which are 10 metre and under.

But despite the falling numbers of vessels and fishermen the value of the fish landed by Scottish vessels was on the rise. In 2011 the value of landings increased by 13% in real terms compared the previous year - the highest level this century.

Mr Armstrong said: “Although these statistic show an increase of 13 per cent in the value of fish landed, the main reason for this is down to the strong, and very welcome, global demand for mackerel.”

He continued: “However, income and profitability are two very different things. The reality is that most of our fleet is facing severe economic cost pressures, including the soaring price of fuel, the extra cost required to meet a whole range of complex technical regulations, and the distribution of fishing patterns caused by days-at-sea restrictions.

“The prawn sector has also been hit by reduced demand in key European markets caused by the global recession.”

Shellfish make up the vast majority of landings in the Stornoway vessel district which brought in almost £9.5 million of landings.

While the district was one of only four with Crofters in the industry. Last year 52 Crofters, 17 in the Stornoway district, were involved in commercial fishing – half the number of ten years ago.

Mr Armstrong said: “The decrease of 55 vessels (three per cent) in the Scottish fleet and the decline in employment to the lowest ever recorded levels in the catching sector compared with 2010 portrays a much more accurate reflection of the severe pressures facing the industry today and highlights the dysfunctional regulations we are having to endure.”