To catch a mackerel, inshore east coast fishermen gain permanent 1000 tonne quota

To catch a mackerel
To catch a mackerel © Jenny Downing

By Russell Bruce

In the last article on fishing I covered an overview of the industry, the diversity of boat types and sizes. Different parts of the industry have different interests.

The Scottish government has announced the 1000 tonne handline mackerel quota for boats under 10 metres in size will be made permanent, benefitting smaller boats from Eyemouth to Shetland. A trial has been running for 4 years followed by consultation with the industry in November last year.

The permanent quota for handline mackerel catch is a system of fishing that delivers a sustainable regular income catch for inshore small boats. Faster and fresher to market these catches command a premium over the bulk mackerel land of larger vessels operating in the North Sea. Handline also permits fish species caught, but not wanted. to be returned to the sea live.

By volume, mackerel landings in total account for £166m or 30% of the landings from Scottish waters. Making permanent the 1000 tonne quota for the mackerel handline catch will benefit the majority of boats operating in the North Sea on the east coast of Scotland and provide a continuing stable income stream for boats that do not enjoy the multi-million income of the big, over 40m pelagic vessels.

Responses to the consultation

Responses to the consultation were overwhelmingly positive. On question 1: Do you agree that the allocation of mackerel to the non-sector, 10mu pool should continue? – 93% of respondents agreed although this is not too surprising as under 10m boats make up the majority of east coast licensed vessels.

Inshore fishermen in Eyemouth will be able to travel south along the coastline into English waters in block IVb, which straddles Scottish and English waters. The permanent inshore quota from Marine Scotland is only available to Scottish registered boats. The removal of all handline Mackerel Entitlements associated with licences ensures an open access fishery, as is the case for all other quotas for the under 10m sector.

One of the respondents to Q1, Tommy Poleson, said: “It has been an excellent boost to small boats. Businesses who fabricate fishing equipment have benefited greatly from making new and improved systems for skippers. It has allowed young aspiring fishermen like myself [to] find a relatively low cost stepping stone into the industry that hadn’t previously existed.”

On question 7: Should all non-sector vessels (under and over 10m in length) have access to the inshore mackerel fishery? – the response was resoundingly ‘No’. Larger vessels, particularly in the North East command the dominant share of the mackerel catch.

Tommy Poleson commented: “It will probably lower the value of the catch for smaller boats as they won’t be able to fish in the same weather as a over 10m. [Under] 10m is predominantly a daytime fishery and landing is daily, where over 10m may do trips, boxing fish in ice for longer and lowering catch quality – hurting the entire local catch quality in buyers option.

For those that would like to have a closer look at the responses they can be seen here

Mackerel: total value versus value by weight

Mackerel is the largest catch in Scottish waters by weight, 6,600 tonnes by Purse seine and 179,149 tonnes by Pelagic trawl – a total of 185,771 tonnes. The total value of mackerel landings is £166,019,000. Although by species, mackerel in total accounts for the largest part of the total value of Scottish landings, the value per tonne is much less than for other catches.

In contrast the total landings for shellfish amount to 61,091 tonnes with a total value of £156,845,000. Shellfish vessels, employing many more fishermen, land one third of the catch by weight compared to the mackerel landings but realise a value equivalent to 95% pelagic mackerel landings.

The photograph ‘To catch a mackerel’ is the copyright of Jenny Downing who kindly granted permission to use it for this article. In her email she commented, ‘Coincidentally, we are going out for lunch today – to the restaurant where I took the photo!’