Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

Fishing vessel owners across UK are being asked to take part in a major survey of the fishing fleet, and as part of that they are being asked to share the impacts COVID-19 has had on their operations.

Seafish will contact all owners of UK registered vessels to invite them to complete the annual socio-economic survey, which asks questions about the financial and operational performance of fishing businesses.

Questions on the impact of COVID-19 are a major part of the survey this year. There will also be an opportunity for vessel owners to say how effective government support measures have been for their businesses.

Usually undertaken by a team of researchers visiting hundreds of ports and harbours across the UK, however, due to COVID-19 and challenges with travel and physical distancing, a different approach to the fleet survey is being taken this year.

Vessel owners will be posted a pack containing the survey form and guidance on how to complete it. Survey forms can be completed and returned freepost to Seafish or alternatively they can be done online or over the phone.

The fleet survey research team can be contacted for queries or support with completing the survey. All responses are treated as confidential, with no figures from any individual vessel revealed in any outputs.

The results are shared with the industry and with government, and help policymakers better understand the challenges and opportunities facing the UK fishing fleet and the impact of fisheries management measures.

In recent months, data from last year’s survey was used by the UK Government and the devolved administrations when designing targeted Covid-19 support packages for the fishing industry.

While governments decided on what support should be offered, it was survey data from vessel owners which helped ensure that the most up to date costs of operating a fishing business could be taken into account.

“About 70% of the fishermen we meet in ports take part in our survey. Unfortunately this year our researchers aren’t able to meet vessel owners in person so we’re inviting them to complete the survey another way. It should only take 15 minutes to complete and our researchers will be available by phone or video chat to help if requested,” says Kirsten Milliken, Economics Project Manager at Seafish.

“Vessel owners can also arrange an in-depth discussion with our researchers if they want to tell us more about how their business is being affected by current challenges and their expectations for the future.

“The fleet survey is our opportunity to take the pulse of the UK’s fishing fleet and hear directly from vessel owners about how their businesses are faring.

“All owners know the challenges that they have faced in the last few volatile months and are currently wrestling with, but it’s only by collecting this vital information from all types of fishing businesses that we can provide comprehensive analysis to inform both government and the industry.”

Dale Rodmell, Assistant Chief Executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), has called on vessel owners to complete the survey saying:

“The way Seafish will be conducting the fleet survey this year has had to change, but the need for us all to have the most up-to-date and accurate picture of the UK fishing fleet has not.

“I encourage all vessel owners to engage with Seafish to complete the survey in whatever way suits them best to ensure that we all have access to this vital data on how fishing businesses across the country are faring through Covid-19 and other challenges.”

Owners who take part in the fleet survey can also request a free benchmark report. This compares their vessel’s performance to other similar vessels and can help identify areas where improvements can be made.

They can also be used as evidence in grant or loan applications. Vessel owners who requested a benchmark report after taking part in last year’s survey should receive it very soon.

Survey packs will be making their way to all UK vessel owners from 21 August. Completed survey forms should be returned to Seafish by 30 September.

The survey results allow Seafish to put together a picture of the economic performance of the UK’s fishing fleet and the social impacts on the coastal communities it supports.

Every individual response adds extra insight and accuracy to the picture of the industry as it navigates the current pandemic and prepares for the UK leaving the Common Fisheries Policy.

The Economics of the UK Fishing Fleet report for 2019 – which is based on last year’s survey results as well as landings data – will be published soon.

A provisional dataset has already been released. It showed that fishing revenues for the UK fleet totalled £980 million in 2019, a decrease from £1,025 million in 2018.

The total weight of landings fell by 12%, with the average price per tonne landed increasing by 8%. While the cost of fuel throughout 2019 was lower than the peak prices seen in October 2018, it remained relatively stable as a proportion of total income (14% in 2018 and 13% in 2019).

For further information or support with completing the survey form contact Seafish at fleet.survey@seafish.co.uk or on 07876 035 759.