White fish fleet incomes down, says new report Fishing Monthly Published: 30 December, 2003
A FALL in landings combined with increases in quota leasing, insurance and fuel costs have squeezed whitefish vessel profit margins, according to a new report published by the Sea Fish Industry Authority.
The 2003 Economic Survey of the North Sea and West of Scotland Whitefish Fleet collated financial information on 107 vessels, almost 40% of the fleet. The research team also interviewed 40 skippers, vessel owners and agents during autumn 2003. The report shows that vessel numbers have fallen by 50% since 2000, with vessel earnings down by 27% between 1998 and 2001. The good news is that incomes have stabilised and are thought to have risen by 9% between 2001 and 2003.
Net profit (before depreciation and interest) is estimated to be 5.6% in 2003 compared to 18.6% in 1998.
Jim Watson, the Seafish fisheries economist, said:”This survey highlights a significant reduction in both vessel earnings and net profits since 1998. There is evidence that vessel earnings have stabalised, albeit at relatively low levels, but profit margins in the whitefish fleet have however been extremely low for five years, at an unsustainable level.”
He added: “What we are seeing is that these low profit margins combined with the short-term nature of fisheries management are inhibiting investment. While this has been a pattern of decline for over 10 years, the sector does continue to make an important direct and indirect economic contribution to many fishing communities.”
He stressed that despite the difficult economic conditions highlighted in the report, it was not all doom and gloom for the whitefish fleet. “Haddock stocks are at a 30 year high with cod showing signs of recovery. In addition, those skippers and vessel owners remaining in the fleet have shown a long-term commitment to the industry; for example half of those surveyed have invested in quality on board practices in the last 12 months. “
Dr Ian Duncan, of the Scottish Fishermens Federation said:”(This report) is a reminder of the difficulties currently facing the whitefish fleet and fishing communities of Scotland. However, what also is clear is the commitment and hope of fishermen who continue to struggle to make ends meet. There can be little doubt that it is this commitment that will ensure a brighter future for Scottish fishermen.”