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Fish landings rise in value

SCOTLAND has seen a 12 per cent rise in the value of fish landed in the UK and overseas, according to the latest statistics, though the industry’s future is not bright according to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation.

The Scottish fleet generated £443 million in 2009, even though the price for many species such as cod, haddock and prawns dropped and the price of fuel increased. A total of 378,000 tonnes of fish were landed.

The most valuable species to the country is mackerel, raising £135 million compared to £86 million last year, a rise of 56 per cent. In 2008 the most valuable species was nephrops (prawns), which brought in £77 million last year, down from £91 million.

The increased value of mackerel abroad saw a doubling in foreign landings of the species.

The number of active fishing boats is down from 2,205 in 2008 to 2,174, mostly in the white fish sector, while the number of fishermen has increased by one per cent to 5,409.

Fishing secretary Richard Lochhead said: “We remain committed to providing a range of support intended to allow fishermen to see out the hard times.

“We are working to develop fleet management policies that are appropriate and flexible enough to keep the fleet buoyant despite this difficult economic environment.

“And we continue to ensure that Scotland s position is represented at the highest levels possible when European fishing policy is under discussion.”

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation welcomed the news of the increase in value, but said operating and fuel costs had risen.

Chief executive Bertie Armstrong warned of future difficulties with rising fuel prices and Iceland’s overcatching of mackerel, which will be the subject of international talks next weekend.

Quota and days at sea restrictions in the whitefish and prawn sectors threatened the survival of some sectors, particularly on the west coast, he said.

Further cuts are on the cards under European rules, with Mr Armstrong says this should be challenged to take into account catch data from fishermen to close the knowledge gap.

“Regarding days at sea – reductions in this are part of the EU plan for cod –  the Scottish industry has tried as hard as it can, often at considerable sacrifice to meet the management aim of lower cod catches by means other than reduction of time at sea.

“For example, over 150 closed areas were imposed over the course of the year and a serious amount of development work and innovation is being applied to more selective nets.

“We are now nearing, or are at, the limits of what can be achieved by our own initiatives and a reassessment of the plan is an imperative requirement.

“The Scottish government announced only last weekend the launching of a scheme of combining licences and reducing the number of boats at sea, aimed at helping the surviving businesses.

“Details of this have yet to be finalised, but every combination will mean an exit for some from the industry, and careful management and consultation will be required for this process.

“In summary, the increased bottom line evident from the 2009 provisional figures is welcomed, but it is clear that there is a real job to be done in Edinburgh, London and Brussels in planning and regulating for the future.  We must remember that the fishing industry supports the sustainable harvesting of a wonderful natural resource.  We must not lose that.”