Turbot-charged: Fishing industry nets its strongest year since the financial crisis

Jasper Jolly
The British Fishing Industry And The European Union
Life on the high seas proved more profitable in 2016 (Source: Getty)

The British fishing industry netted its fastest profit growth since the global financial crisis last year, as a rising tide in prices lifted the UK fleet.

Income rose by almost a fifth over the course of the year in 2016, its fastest since 2008, according to analysis by industry body Seafish, while operating income rose by 22 per cent.

Total output in the industry measured by gross value added rose by 25 per cent year-on-year to reach £467m. In contrast, GDP for the British economy rose by only 1.8 per cent during 2016.

While the fishing industry contributes a relatively small chunk of total British economic output (as only a fraction of the 0.7 per cent of GDP from agriculture, forestry and fishing combined) it took a prominent plaice in the Brexit debate because of the complex regulatory issues around fishing in British waters.

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British fishing communities have long argued that European Union quotas on fishing have restricted the industry. At the start of the month environment minister Michael Gove announced the UK will leave the London Fisheries Convention, a pre-EU agreement allowing some foreign ships to fish in British waters.

The rise in prices provided the main boost to the industry, with the total weight of fish landed actually falling slightly from 706,000 tonnes landed in 2015 to 697,000 tonnes last year.

The industry was boosted by mackerel economics, with strong demand for Britain's most-caught fish from the Far East helping to drive prices to their highest level since 2011. Meanwhile, in a boon to consumers of Britain's national dish, cod and haddock prices both dropped.

Seafish senior economist, Arina Motova, said: “These are very strong figures for the UK fleet. The increase of fishing revenues and continuing low fuel price have played a key role in these great results, and in 2016 this sector’s contribution to the economy was at its highest level since 2008.

“At the same time we estimate an increase of crew wages by 27 per cent in 2016, and better economic performance has meant that not only have businesses experienced an increase in profits, but also crew members on average could enjoy higher pay.”

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