Changing balance of fish production in Scotland

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  • Marine Policy, Vol. 23, No. 4}5, pp. 347}358, 1999( 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved

    Printed in Great Britain0308-597X/99 $*see front matter

    PII: S0308-597X(98)00048-7

    Changing balance offish production inScotland

    J R Coull1

    The last two decades have seen sub-stantial changes in fish production inScotland, with the rise of shell fish andfarmed salmon to be important produc-tion sectors beside the established sec-tors of demersal and pelagic fish. Inconventional fisheries conservationprogrammes based on scientific advicehave become a permanent part of theorganisation, while the expansion of fishfarming has been essentially founded onsystematic scientific investigation. Thechanging pattern and balance of produc-tion has been functionally related to de-velopments in processing, transportand marketing of fish. Central to thishas been the expansion of fish freezing,which maintains food value to the besteffect for the consumer. ( 1999 Else-vier Science Ltd. All rights reserved

    KeywordsNDemersal; Pelagic and shellfish; Farmed salmon; Conservation; Fishfreezing

    Department of Geography, University ofAberdeen, Elphinstone Road, AberdeenAB24 2UF, UK. Tel.: 01 224 272328; fax:01224 27 2331.1In the preparation of this paper I wish toacknowledge the assistance given by Mr.Alistair Stewart, Director of Coastal Opera-tions, Scottish Fishery Protection Agency;Mr. Gordon Brown of the fish farming sec-tion of SOAEFD; Mr. William J.J. Crowe ofthe Scottish Salmon Growers Association;and Mr. Neil MacKellar of the Sea FishIndustry Authority.

    1. Introduction

    The last two decades have seen substantial changes in "sh production inScotland. Shell "sh and farmed salmon have risen from positions of limitedimportance to be substantial production sectors, and this has been drivenby rising demand for high-value sea food. In contrast output of demersaland pelagic species, while continuing important, have been limited by thesetting of national quotas under the conservation regulations of theCommon Fisheries Policy (CFP) of the European Union (EU). The e$-ciency of these regulations is limited by the problems of enforcement, andfor demersal species by the major problem of setting a minimum mesh sizefor a mixed-species "shery. The development of adequate conservationmeasures also continues to be inhibited by the problem of overcapacity incatching power within the EU, despite the multi-annual guidance pro-grammes that have now been running for 15 years to reduce it. Moreover,there has been a continuing problem of controlling over-quota landings of&&black "sh landed without o$cial sanction. Conservation regulations forshell "sh are substantially under UK control and are generally moresatisfactory. In order to address the modern problems, arrangements for"sheries administration in Scotland were revised with the establishment in1991 of the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, the main objective ofwhich is to enforce "sheries legislation and regulations in 185 000 squaremiles of sea around Scotland and in Scottish ports. The development ofsalmon farming has been rendered possible by domestication achieved inthe 1970s, and an important issue for the future is the extent to whichhusbandry techniques can be applied to other species. The regulatoryregime of salmon farming is completely under UK control, but it has notbeen exempt from controversy. The main issue here is that the CrownEstate Commissioners function both as landlord for the leasing of thesea-bed and as planning authority for "sh farms, and this embodies aninevitable con#ict of interest. Currently alternative regimes of organisation


  • are under discussion, and it appears that the Commissioners are likely tocontinue as landlords but may lose their planning function.

    For the future, the main impact of scienti"c advances is most likely to beseen in the "sh farming sector, where diversi"cation of production intoother species has been emphasised as desirable on both ecological andeconomic grounds; and improved means of disease and pest control couldalso be important. In conventional "sheries the basic freedom of move-ment and operation throughout the EU "sheries zone to the thousands ofEU vessels is a continuing di$culty in the way of e!ective enforcement ofconservation and quota arrangements. While there are moves towardsthe introduction of satellite tracking of "shing boats, these are still at theplanning stage and in any case stand to have limited impact in anopen-access "shery. There have, however, been recent improvements in theco-ordination of land-based, marine and aerial surveillance of "shing[1, p. 7]. With modern communications technology it is possible that portmarkets and auctions could be systematically linked and coordinated, andthis could even be extended to the European scale; however at present,such links appear to be a distant prospect. One "eld in which there is scopefor the fuller employment of applied science is in the maintaining of foodquality along the distribution chains by which "sh reach the consumerfrom the ports.

    Scotland now plays the leading part within Britain in conventional"shing in the catching of all three main categories of "sh (demersal, pelagicand shell); it also leads in "sh farming with the dominant position ofsalmon production. The most important single region for "sh landings inBritain is northeast Scotland, although the relative importance of thatregion has declined in recent years with the increased proportion of "shinge!ort now deployed on the West Coast. The Highlands and Islands regionhas gained in relative importance, although within this region it is only inthe Northern Isles (particularly Shetland) that catching power andmethods have made advances on a par with the northeast. The location oflandings in any case is partly misleading, as "shing on much of the WestCoast and in northern waters is dominated by vessels based in thenortheast.

    Main trends in production

    In recent times, while there has been no aggregate trend of expansion inScottish "sh production, there has been a sustained growth in its nominalvalue (Figure 1). To follow the trend now it is necessary to combine datafor catches from conventional "shing with data for "sh farming which arecompiled by di!erent bodies. Annual data on production of conventional"shing are regularly published by the Scottish Fisheries ProtectionAgency. In the recently established salmon farming, data come from theScottish Salmon Growers Association; and while estimates of productionare available from the start of the industry in the 1970s, estimates of valueof production on an organised basis date only from 1988. Farming of otherspecies makes minor contributions to the total, and complete data onvolume and value are not available.

    The trends in tonnage and value of "sh production since 1980 are shownin Figure 1; it is clear that the major change has been the increase insalmon production from a very minor position in 1980 to the point ofmaking a signi"cant contribution to total tonnage (15.1% in 1996) anda major contribution to total value (38.4% in 1996): it has in the 1990s

    Fish production in Scotland: J R Coull


  • Figure 1. Fish production in Scotland 1980I1996.

    been vying with demersal as the leading "sh sector by value of produc-tion. The successful domestication of Atlantic salmon was a majorachievement made in Norway in the 1970s and quickly copied in Scotland.It was complicated by the fact that salmon spend di!erent parts of their lifecycle in fresh and salt water: the eggs are laid in rivers by adult salmonreturning from the sea, and the young stages up to smolting (normally attwo or three years) are in fresh water. At smolting the "sh enter the sea,and in the natural life-cycle migrate over thousands of miles of ocean tofeeding grounds in high latitudes, before returning two or three years laterto their native rivers to spawn. Although salmon hatcheries had been inuse from the 19th century, full domestication was to involve the feeding of

    Fish production in Scotland: J R Coull


  • the "sh in captivity through all their fresh water stages, and theseparate feeding of the post-smolt stages to marketable size in cages inthe sea. It has also involved extensive measures in the control ofdisease and of predators. The control of sea-lice has been the mainproblem in caged "sh populations, and to date it has proved impossible tocontrol them without the use of pesticides, which are toxic to other marinefauna: shell "sh are among the species at risk, and the concentration ofpesticides which have been sanctioned for use is strictly controlled for thisreason.

    In Scotland the great bulk of "sh landings come from the native Scottish#eet, although they do include some landings from vessels based elsewherein the UK, and to a limited extent from vessels of other Europeancountries. In the period 1980}1996, the peak tonnage in "sh productionwas actually in 1985 at 620 000 t, and since then it has #uctuated between500000 and 600 000 t. The sustained increase in value has meant by 1996an increase of ca. 350% over 1980 and has been due to a combination offactors, of which the most important has been the rising production offarmed salmon; but contributory factors have also been the rising produc-tion of shell "sh and the increase in unit value of demersal "sh; the latterrise has been largely due to relative scarcity. In all the total value of theconventional "sh catch has risen by 273%.

    Shell "sh in recent decades have greatly increased in importance in theScottish "sh catches [2, pp. 173}176]: the expansion and diversi"cationof this sector of the market has been accompanied by a greater proportionof "shing e!ort being devoted to shell "sh, along with the expansion offacilities for processing and marketing it. Over the period from 1980 therehas been a limited rise in tonnage; and while the value has increased fourand a half times, the proportion in the allover total has been substantiallyconstant at ca. 16%. In contrast, there has been a major readjustment inthe demersal sector, which was the very dominant one throughout thepost-war period until the last decade; over the period since 1980 produc-tion has #uctuated, and the demersal share of total tonnage has decreasedfrom almost 60 to 48.9%, while the share in value has gone down from 74.6to 41.3% of the allover total. Pelagic production has been limited byconservation regulations, and the unit value of pelagic species in themodern period has been markedly depressed; over most of the periodsince 1980 this sector has rivalled the demersal sector in production byvolume and from 1987 to 1995 exceeded it, but its value has beenminor and in 1995 was only 5.3% of overall value of productionalthough 43.7% of total volume. However, the actual catch of theScottish pelagic #eet has been higher than these "gures indicate, asthere are considerable landings in other countries (particularly Norway)which are in excess of foreign landings in Scotland. In the mostrecent years higher prices in Norway, which are related to market contactswith Japan, have resulted in a strong upsurge of Scottish landings there.The result has been that in 1996 (the latest year for which data areavailable) it was only a minority share of pelagic catches which werelanded in Scotland, while 55.0% by volume and 68.3% by value werelanded abroad.

    Although Scottish "sh farming is dominated by salmon production,there is also farmed production of rainbow trout and of bivalve shell "sh;and in 1997 the "rst farmed halibut reached the market. The raising ofrainbow trout began in the 1960s, but Scotland does not have theenvironmental advantages for that species that it has for salmon, and the

    Fish production in Scotland: J R Coull


  • production is now fairly stable at around 4000 t annually, mainly for theScottish market. Although far behind salmon in importance, there hasbeen in the last decade a somewhat irregular expansion in the raising ofmussels, scallops and oysters; and since these are "lter feeders on plankton,they do not incur the substantial feed costs that are involved with thefarming of salmon and rainbow trout. In all of these, however, productionis still small-scale and much fragmented: in 1996 there was active produc-tion on 157 out of 293 registered sites, most with only one or two sta![3, p. 5]. It could well be for the future that halibut, a species of particularlyhigh market value, will be most important for the diversi"cation offarmed production.

    Research work on farming halibut has been proceeding for over 20years; Scotland is towards the southern limit of the halibuts natural range,which is an advantage for "sh farming with relatively high sea temper-atures. The technique of rearing has now been mastered, and the indica-tions are that it will also be economically viable, with the market price forhalibut currently being several times that of farmed salmon. AlthoughScotland is by far the most favoured part of the UK in number of suitablesites for marine "sh farms, a problem that now faces further developmentand diversi"cation is that there are few unused sites remaining. Conceiv-ably halibut could be produced in rotation with salmon to ecologicaladvantage.

    Development of the 6eetThere has been an obvious tension within the "shing industry in thedevelopment of the #eet. With a de"nite over-capacity within the EU, anessential component of the CFP is the restructuring (or more accuratelyreduction) of #eets to render catching capacity more in accord with theresource base. However, at the same time "shermen need to modernisetheir vessels within a competitive industry, and hydraulic and electronicequipment has been more extensively installed and help them maintainor enhance their shares of national quotas. To date they have e!ectivelyout#anked the programme that is designed to achieve contraction incatching capacity, despite increasing constraints on vessel replacementand on transfer of vessel licences (Figure 2). Reduction in the UK has alsobeen limited through government reluctance to fund decommissioningschemes on the scale of some of our European partners. Overcapitalisationhas got worse rather than better, despite the fact that the investment aidsavailable from national government and European agencies available formuch of the post-war period have now been phased out. The long-termdecrease in #eet numbers which had gone on for decades was reversed after1984, and from 1986 the trend can be more fully traced as a full breakdown of data for vessel numbers, tonnage and horsepower becomesavailable. In the 10 years from 1986 to 1996 there was an increase innumber in the #eet from 2183 to 2806 (or 25.5%). While prior to 1993 thiswas partly through investment in smaller boats not subject to restriction,it was complicated by a change in licensing requirements in that year toinclude boats of less than 10 m which brought &a signi"cant number ofvessels on to the register for the "rst time. This caused a...


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