1. Overview of The Scottish Fishing Fleet
1.1 The regulation of the UK Fleet
The structure and capacity of the UK and Scottish fishing fleets has, since 1983, been dictated primarily by the EU Common Fisheries Policy. Between 1997 and 2002 fleet structure was managed within the CFP through the fourth Multi Annual Guidance Programme ( MAGP) designed to tailor fleet capacity to available fish stocks across the EU. Under this programme the UK fishing fleet was divided into eight segments, defined primarily by broad fishing method 1, and capacity limits or effort reduction targets set for each segment. MAGP IV has now ended and has been replaced by global effort ceilings at member state level controlled through a system of entry/exit controls. In simple terms, a vessel can only enter the fleet when equivalent capacity has exited the fleet.
At a UK level, restrictive licensing has been the main Government instrument to bring the activities of the UK fishing fleet into line with MAGP and UK aims on fleet and catch management. Aside from a few limited exceptions, all vessels engaged in commercial sea fishing are required to hold a licence issued by UK Fisheries Departments. There is a finite number of licences in existence and no new licences are made available. This places a ceiling on the total number 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. Capacity penalties are applied when licences are transferred, or aggregated to form a larger licence unit, and these, together with the restricted number of licences on issue, form the mechanism for ensuring reductions in the capacity of the UK fleet to meet with EU and UK objectives.
The UK restrictive licensing controls, in combination with successive decommissioning schemes (1994-1997; 2001-2002 and 2003), explain many of the fleet trends in recent years and the figures presented here are interpreted in this context where appropriate.
1.2 Fleet size
2004 saw a continuation of recent changes to the Scottish fleet, either directly or indirectly prompted by measures designed to conserve vulnerable whitefish stocks, particularly Cod. The most important of these measures in recent years has been the 2003-04 decommissioning scheme, under which 69 vessels were removed from the demersal fleet.
There were 2,394 active fishing vessels based in Scotland at the end of 2004, a net reduction of one since 2003. There were reductions in the number of active vessels at 8 out of 18 districts (Table I below) but there was no clear geographical pattern, with losses in one district often balanced by gains in adjacent districts. This represents a more typical situation than in 2003 when losses linked to decommissioning mainly affected north east Scotland (districts)
Table I: Changes in numbers of active Scottish based vessels 2003-04, by district.
Number of active vessels
Source: Table 6 and Scottish Fisheries Statistics 2003
The under 10 metre segment of the fleet increased by 30 vessels to 1,662 over the year to December 2004 and has been relatively stable at around 1,600 vessels since 1994 ( Table 1). The over 10 metres fleet decreased by 4 per cent in 2004, continuing a long term decline. This segment is now 43 per cent smaller than in 1994, a trend which has affected the demersal (down 45 per cent), pelagic (down 49 percent) and shellfish (down 42 per cent) sectors.
1.3 Vessel capacity
1.3.1 Overall length
The average overall length of vessels in the over 10m fleet was 19.15 metres in 2004, a shortening of 7 cm on the 2003 figure. This reduction represents a continuing reversal of a previous trend towards increasing vessel length, seen up until 2000. Since 2000, the average within the over 10m segment has fallen by 89 cm and is now lower than at any time since 1993 ( Table 1).
1.3.2 Engine Power
Engine power statistics in previous years have been underestimated to an unknown degree, due the inclusion of vessels with engines operating at a higher power than permitted on their licences. In November 1999 in response to this problem, Fisheries Departments introduced special (concessionary) licensing arrangements and a timetable for compliance with engine power controls. Under the compliance timetable licence holders who have admitted to under declaration, had until the end of 2004 to ensure that either: (i) their true engine power is registered and to have acquired enough licence entitlement to cover this, or (ii) to have de-rated their engine to the figure on their licence. In practice, most have chosen to acquire extra licences to cover their operational engine power. Consequently, it needs to be borne in mind that after 1999, the trends in average engine power shown in Table 1 are complicated by the effect of an increasing number of owners declaring their true, higher engine power. Nevertheless, while this bias makes the actual rate of change unclear, it is clear that Scottish based vessels are now fishing with greater engine power on average than in the past.
The total registered engine power of the over 10m Scottish fleet was 343 thousand kW in 2004 ( Table 1), a fall of one per cent since 2003 and 16 per cent lower than in 1994. However, average engine power, at 468 kW, has increased 3 per cent since 2003 and is 49 per cent greater than in 1994. The opposing trends of decreasing total fleet engine capacity and increasing average engine power per can be explained by a combination of factors: (i) the 43 per cent reduction in the over 10 m fleet since 1994 (Section 1.2); (ii) the "natural wastage" of licensed engine power that often accompanies the aggregation of several licences onto a single vessel 2 and; (iii) since 1999, the progressive correction of under declared engine power, in line with the concessionary licensing arrangements noted above.
Total employment in the catching sector fell by only 1 to 5,275 between 2003 and 2004 (Table 11), while the number of fishermen regularly employed on Scottish based vessels at 4,124, was 156 higher in 2004 ( Table 13). The number of irregularly employed (mainly part-time) fishermen in 2004 fell, by 15 per cent to 1,052 ( Table 13).
At a district level, the biggest loss in regular employment occurred at Fraserburgh (-96 jobs) although the other districts in north-east Scotland together gained 47 regular fishing jobs. The biggest employment gain was seen at Ayr, which gained 178 regular fishing jobs in 2004 and has taken over from Fraserburgh in having the highest regular and total number of fishing jobs among Scottish districts. On the west coast there were reductions in regular employment at Ullapool (-28 regular fishermen), Mallaig (-32) and Oban (-42) but a gain of 37 regular jobs at Portree.
1 Pelagic Gears; Beam trawl; Demersal seines and nephrops; Lines & Nets; Shellfish-Mobile; Shellfish-Fixed; Distant Water; and vessels under 10 metres
2 Occurs when the sum of the engine power capacities attached to the licences used in an aggregation, exceeds the maximum engine power of the vessel on which the aggregate licence is used. The excess engine power entitlement is then effectively lost from the fleet total.