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News from Mallaig Harbour: October 2021

By October 15, 2021News

It’s hard to believe that we are into October – although the weather this week is definitely designed to remind us that summer is over. That said, we still have some visiting yachts at the Marina, and we have also had two Navy Patrol vessels, HMS Explorer and HMS Express, using the pontoons. At just over 20m long, these Archer class P2000 Patrol Boats are some of the smallest vessels in the fleet, and have been participating in Joint Warrior training exercises around the coast.

Some of you will already be aware that we are having difficulty with our lighthouse at the entrance to the Harbour, and it is currently unlit. A Navigational Warning has been issued, and we have finally tracked down someone to replace the lighting unit, so we are hopeful that the issue will be resolved by mid-October. In the meantime, please take extra care when entering or exiting the Harbour.   

For most of September you would have seen a platform hanging over various parts of the quay in the Outer Harbour as Holequest undertook drilling and core sampling as part of the detailed design works for the proposals to deepen the Outer Harbour and develop more quay space. Samples were taken from six different locations so that we can be certain of the depths of the existing piles holding up the breakwater and have a better understanding of the type of materials on the existing seabed within the area. This is the visible start of a programme of investigations and design works which are costing around £450k and we are grateful that HIE have approved a grant of 40% towards the costs. These works will allow us to go out to tender for the actual construction works, and give us certainty of costs to apply for funding towards the capital works – hopefully early in the next financial year.  

The Marine Management Organisation has just published their UK Fisheries Statistics for 2020. Given the ongoing decline we are seeing in the fishing industry in Mallaig, this makes for interesting reading. Headline figures are:

In 2020, UK vessels landed 623 thousand tonnes of sea fish into the UK and abroad with a value of £831 million. Compared to 2019, this is a slight increase in the quantity of sea fish landed and a 16 per cent decrease in value landed.

Compared to 2019, the number of UK vessels has fallen by 128, a decrease of 2 per cent similar to the change between 2018 and 2019. All these vessels were under 10 metres (10m) in length. While there were some vessels over 10m decommissioned and registered in 2020, the total number remained the same as 2019.

The UK is a net importer of fish. In 2020 the UK imported 672 thousand tonnes of fish, with a value of £3,206 million. It exported 423 thousand tonnes. Compared to 2019, imports were down by 7 per cent. (The majority of our imports are from China, and the majority of our exports to France). We import more tuna and export more salmon than any other species, but the UK is also a net importer of Cod, shrimps and prawns, and a net exporter of Mackerel!

The number of fishers in the United Kingdom has steadily declined by 45 per cent since 1994 and by three-quarters since 1938.  This is a sobering statistic – in the last 27 years, the number of fishermen has declined by almost half! The report explains this in part by saying that ‘The long-term decrease in the number of fishers is associated with reductions in fleet size and the move to fewer larger vessels.  Relative to their capacity, larger vessels do not require as many fishers as small vessels.’ 

Of the four UK nations, Scotland lands the most fish by both quantity and value, and in 2020, pelagic species (mackerel and herring) made up 57% of the total quantity landed, but brought in less value than demersal landings.

In 2020 shellfish landings decreased by 18%, while their value decreased by 33%. The price per tonne for shellfish decreased 20% compared to a decrease of around 8% for both demersal and pelagic species. This was as a direct result of lockdowns – shellfish species tend to be landed and sold fresh for use in the hospitality sectors in the UK and abroad, and this market crashed as lockdowns were imposed. The demersal and pelagic sectors were impacted to a lesser extent as they are primarily for consumption in the home, and can be landed and sold frozen so are more resilient to changes in the market. Nephrops (also known as langoustine or Norway lobster), crabs and scallops are the main shellfish species landed by the UK fleet, accounting for 60% of all shellfish landings in 2020.   Landings of these three key species decreased between 2019 and 2020, the decrease in the value of Nephrops landings was the most severe at 44%.  As discussed previously, the shellfish sector has been hit the hardest by the ongoing pandemic.  

In 2020, UK vessels landed a total of 502 thousand tonnes of fish and shellfish from UK waters with a first sale value of £700 million.  By tonnage 53% of this was from the Northern North Sea; mackerel and herring made up 70% of those landings whereas haddock, whiting, cod, monkfish and saithe combined accounted for a further 19% of the total UK landings from UK waters of the Northern North Sea. This is reflected in the fact that Peterhead was once again the busiest port, with £153.9million of landings, followed by Lerwick, Scrabster and Fraserburgh.

There’s a much higher level of detail in the report, but the statistics above give some context to the reduction in fishing not just in Mallaig, but in many smaller ports around the country as fishing effort changes and becomes more concentrated around fewer larger vessels and ports.

Jacqueline McDonell

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