A 10-year high in landings by Scottish fishermen last year masks major problems in the industry, especially the plundering of mackerel stocks by Iceland and Faroe.
That’s the view of Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong, who today welcomed figures showing a 15 per cent increase in the value of landings in 2011 to £500 million.
Ironically mackerel, worth £164 million, was the main driver of the increase, according to Scottish fisheries minister Richard Lochhead.
He said: “It’s encouraging that the value of the Scottish catch has hit the highest level in a decade.”
“The seafood landed by our fishermen is increasingly sought after, with most prices on the up.
“The value of whitefish landings – led by cod, haddock and monkfish – was generally stable year-on-year, while a modest reduction in fleet size reflects trends towards greater productivity and higher landings value per vessel.
“With mackerel accounting for nearly a third of the overall total, it underlines how important this stock is to Scotland.
“That’s why the EU must urgently progress plans for sanctions to address the reckless overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroes. Otherwise this valuable fishery may not be there in the years to come.”
There were 54 fewer boats (2,096) based in Scotland last year than in 2010 and 231 fewer fishermen (5,005).
Mr Armstrong said: “We welcome the increase in the value of the catch landed by the Scottish fleet, which is good news for the industry and the Scottish economy as a whole.
“However, it would be wrong to conclude that all is well with the industry – for example on the international scene a chill wind is blowing in the shape of the gross over-fishing of the valuable north-east Atlantic mackerel stock by Iceland and the Faroes, which provides an uncertain future for our mackerel fishermen.
“For other fishing industry sectors, the figures also mask underlying problems such as increased operating costs and the continual tightening of control restrictions, particularly the number of days that vessels can put to sea. For example, all of our vessels are enduring dramatically increased fuel prices, which have a huge impact on profitability. Indeed, some whitefish skippers are reporting their highest ever turnover yet lowest ever levels of profitability because of this soaring fuel expenditure, combined with the ever increasing costs of leasing extra quota to try and make their boats viable.”