Peterhead sets new record in 2016

The Peterhead Port Authority’s £49 million redevelopment scheme for the Port is on track, with work on the new, state-of-the-art fish market already under way. The project also involves extensive work on the harbour itself. As the port’s chief executive, Ian Laidlaw explains, this will include deepening all the inner harbours from the present six metres to a depth of nine and a half metres.

The groundworks for the new market are now well under way and it is expected to open in early 2019, at which point the old market will be demolished.

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Besides being some 50 per cent larger than the existing market, one of the features of the new market that will be highly valued by the fishing community will be that it provides a covered landing area for fish that is sold privately. As such it will provide both the fishermen and their catch with protection from the elements.

"The new market could not come at a more timely moment. We are again on track for a record year in 2017, and will beat last year’s record fish landings comfortably," Laidlaw says.

In 2016 the port set a new record in landing over £100m worth of white fish.

This was significantly up on the prior year’s total of £88m. By the end of December this year Laidlaw expects white fish landings to be in excess of £120m.

"After years when all we heard about from the EU and the media were endless tales of depleted fish stocks and the need for stringent quotas, it is a real delight both for the port and for the fishing community to see fish stocks once again at decent levels," he comments.

Pelagic fish stocks have also been good and the combined total of white fish and pelagic fish landings will be
in excess of £200m for the year,
Laidlaw estimates.

In its heyday the port’s fishing fleet numbered some 450 vessels. Today, even with good catches beginning to drive some investment and renewal in the fleet, it only musters around 100 boats.

Many in the sector believe that Brexit, if properly handled, could drive a real renaissance for the industry, which in turn would be tremendous for a wide range of industries that provide services to the sector.

However, Laidlaw points out that right now, while politicians are generally promising that positive thing will come out of any final agreement, there is no clarity or certainty about what Scotland’s share of the catch in Scottish waters will be.

One of the things that local fishermen would like to see is an end to the EU’s discard ban, which prevents undersized fish from being thrown back into the sea. Peterhead has set up a discards hub that sees fish that are below catchable size going to a fishmeal plant. However, discards take up space in the hold, thus lowering the value of the catch.

People would also like to see a new agreement that was both sustainable and raised the catch quota to reasonable levels.

"All we can do at this stage is to keep talking to whoever we think might be in the decision-making process and try to work for a positive outcome," Laidlaw concludes.

CIFA: A better way for fishing

Around a year before the historic Referendum of the of June 23, 2016, a number of coastal fishing associations and partners came together around the kernel of an idea. Amongst the representatives there were those who generally fished in or around, or who were linked to ports up and down the coast.

A key point here is that many of these ports have suffered a significant decline over the last few decades. The partners shared an aspiration of working together to visualise a way forward which could promote sustainable fishing and revive Scotland’s heritage of beautiful and
characterful fishing towns and villages.

In addition, they were committed to raising awareness of how important coastal fishing is to the nation as a whole, as both a natural resource and a sustaining renewable asset. It affects so many different walks of life. Whether someone works in a local harbour or in a seafood processing factory or in a restaurant in the central belt, fishing can have a direct impact on their jobs and well-being. For a start, fishing is a source of much needed healthy protein as well as being a socio-economic and culturally important natural gift bestowed on the nation. It is a treasure which, managed well and sensibly, will nurture families, communities and the nation.

The Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance (CIFA) was borne from this concept. CIFA is fishing focused, while being a cross industry and community-based national organisation. From the start it was established as a policy and action group with the main aim of addressing the economic and physical needs of Scottish coastal fisheries and associated communities and businesses. CIFA proactively sets out to advocate, develop, support and celebrate fishing and fishing related activities.

WAY FORWARD

CIFA members believe that the successes of other great sustainable fishing nations offers a sensible way forward for local fishing post-Brexit. There are clear lessons to be learned from looking at where our neighbours in Norway and Iceland were when their fisheries management systems were changed. Both counties had economies that were heavily reliant on fishing. By way of contrast, we have a thriving mixed economy of agriculture, tourism and whisky, to name just a few. Each coastal nation state has a very different ethical outlook on the purpose of fish within their society. A decision needs to be made at the UK and Scottish level as to the part that fishing plays in society at large.

CIFA strongly believes that no fishing sector should dominate to the detriment of another. Small and medium boats and larger scale fleets should all be able to look forward to a sustainable and fair future.

COMMUNITIES

Fishermen all perform a job worthy of respect and gratitude. CIFA understands that the market requires larger scale fisheries from ports such as Peterhead, but notes that there is a real and very under-developed potential exists in coastal fleets from Stornoway to Stranraer and Campbeltown to Kirkwall. These are the boats with the most direct ties to the communities, they have the ability to contribute on so many levels beyond just the economic. It is also often these ports who value their markets in Europe, and regardless of future arrangements will seek to continue this trade of quality coastal seafood making its way to the continent.

INNOVATION

Drawing from the Norway model, we appreciate that given the chance to rethink the current system entirely, coastal fleets could help regenerate coastal regions. To achieve this will require bold and ambitious changes and a willingness to innovate. Now is an ideal opportunity for change. A rethink of fisheries management systems, from quotas to the science-base that drives decision making, would certainly help to inspire younger generations to enter the sector. A willingness to acknowledge coastal fishing as a sustainable growth area and develop accessible low risk loan schemes for new builds would permit safer fleets and promote new entrants. This is a reality that has already been achieved by some of our Nordic neighbours. Fishermen selling fresh fish from the boat, a providence of food which can rarely be more transparent.

CIFA respects opportunity for all rather than just the few. We recognise previous investments in fishing, but embrace an improved system for all fishermen. If no innovation occurs and no fresh thinking happens it’s likely a few powerful vested interests will ‘win’ massively rather than the possible many, this is why everyone, MPs, MSPs, members of the public, local authority councillors, and all who champion transparency and fairness, should speak out now to support sensible improvements. Please feel free to get in touch via email to find out more and get involved.

email: contact@cifascot.com

www.cifascot.com