Jargon Buster: Stakeholder
A person, group, or organization with an interest in the UK fishing and seafood industry, that can affect or be affected by operations and changes in the industry.
A person, group, or organization with an interest in the UK fishing and seafood industry, that can affect or be affected by operations and changes in the industry.
At the centre of the industry there is an 11,000 strong workforce working onboard approximately 4300 fishing vessels. These vessels vary in size, how much they catch, different fishing grounds and landing ports, if they are dayboats or work over multi-day trips, and the types of fishing gear and species they target. The total number of fishers in the UK was around 11,000 in 2020, down from around 20,000 in the mid-1990s. In 2020, 43% of fishers were based in England, 42% in Scotland, 8% in Northern Ireland and 7% in Wales
Within UK waters there is the UK fleet, and foreign vessels permitted to fish in UK waters. There are also members of the UK fleet that fish beyond UK waters with permits, and where necessary, quota, to carry out activities in foreign waters.
There is significant variation in the composition of the UK fleet across the devolved administrations. In 2020, under 10 metre (u-10m) vessels made up the largest group in all parts of the UK. England had the largest number of u-10m vessels, with 2,300 vessels, and Northern Ireland had the smallest fleet with 199 vessels. Scotland has the largest number of over 10m vessels, 550, and Wales the smallest, 28. England contributes the highest number of vessels to the UK fleet, but Scotland’s fleet has more power and capacity. England is home to 48% of the active fleet – and Scotland has 41% active vessels. Between Wales and Northern Ireland, there is less than 2% of the total active vessels.
Vessels operate in the UK EEZ – which is limited to 200 nautical miles from the coast, or in the case that the zones overlap with another country, e.g., between UK and France, the states “split the difference” or delineate a maritime boundary in the middle point between the two coasts. Within the UK EEZ, vessels are restricted depending on local licences and within areas where fishing is restricted – for example protected areas or areas of other activities such as wind farms.
Fishing in all other waters outside the UK EEZ depends on negotiations and valid licences for the waters (e.g., Fishing in EU waters is subject to authorisation by the European Commission).
From 1 January 2021 all foreign vessels fishing in UK waters must have a valid foreign vessel licence issued by the United Kingdom Single Issuing Authority (UKSIA) to fish in the UK EEZ and/or 6-12nm zone.
There are a variety of different types of fishing vessels throughout the UK fishing fleet – and it is difficult to make clear definitions of vessels into specific categories. Fishing vessels are generally defined by size (under-10m or over 10m), and if they fish for quota or non-quota species. Quota species are when a total catch limit is set and fishing activity is monitored, whereas non-quota species probably do not have any catch limits, although they may have other management measures in place.
As a very general rule, the fleet is divided into small scale “low impact”, artisan fleet, made up of under 10m inshore day boats, that target a mix of species including non-quota species. Then, as vessels get bigger, they often fish for a mix of quota and non-quota species managed by a Total Allowable Catch, and may have several crew members at sea for several days at a time.
However – there are MANY exceptions to this – and ideas on how to define the fleet are frequently debated.
Approximately 60% of the UK registered vessels are under 10m in length and tend to operate “inshore” within the 6-mile limit.
Much of the Under 10m fleet tends to be day boats, fishing for a mix of species, including non-quota species. There is no upper limit on the quantity of non-quota fish that can be caught but some are managed via different regimes, e.g species prohibitions, effort limits on gear and days at sea.
Non-quota species include almost all commercial shellfish species, nephrops being the exception. Terms such as artisan, low impact, or small scale are often used for this fleet. This is generally a small business with one person and maybe one or two members of crew.
As vessels surpass 10m they have the capacity to fish further from land, and they tend to become larger businesses with multiple crew and potentially people involved onshore (in processing, sales, administration). Many larger vessels fish for species that have annual catch limits set by management, based on scientific advice, known as Total Allowable Catch (TAC), or quota. Larger vessels are usually members of a Producer Organisation (PO) which manage, swap quotas and allocate catch limits to its member vessels. Those who are not members of a PO obtain their share of the quota from a centrally managed pool. Non-quota species may also be targeted by larger vessels and bigger operations, and may be landed as a catch component by vessels using mobile gear and targeting quota species.
AGAIN – many exceptions do apply to these general rules and how to divide the fleet into categories is frequently debated.
UK fisheries focus on demersal species that live and feed near the seabed, pelagic species that live above the seabed, and shellfish. The UK fleet employs a variety of different fishing gear types – with numerous variations within each gear, to suit the target species. In general, fishing gears are divided into active gears that follow the target fish, including trawlers, dredges and pelagic nets, and passive gears that remain stationary and await an interaction from the target species such as pots, stationary nets and lines. The type of gear used is selected based on the target species, and adapted to minimise the capture of non-target species and minimise any effects on habitats and ecosystems.
Other approaches include hand-gathering (e.g., for scallops).
The UK fishing fleet catches and lands different types of fish. Pelagic fish make up the largest part of their landings, while the volume of demersal fish landings has declined in recent years.
Types of target species
In general, the fishing industry is made up of a large workforce working independently. In order to improve collaboration, progress and representation of individual vessels and fishermen, many groups may join an industry association or organisation.
Some fleets and individual vessels are represented by Fisheries Producer Organisations (FPO) or other industry associations. FPOs are set apart from other industry associations and groups as individuals may join an FPO to obtain an allocated share of quota, whereas both FPOs and associations may focus on providing representation and advocacy. These groups may bring the industry together to work towards management initiatives, apply for funding to improve aspects of fishing safety, data & science, or marketing, represent their members’ interests, and provide a direct line of communication to the industry.
Some boats do not join POs or other associations and operate individually.
Fish Producer Organisations (FPOs)
For every person working at sea, it is estimated that between 4 and 7 people are working onshore within the seafood industry. The Seafood Supply Chain refers to the stage between seafood being landed until it reaches the end consumer. Seafood supply chains can vary widely – both in the number of different steps seafood transitions through, as well as the nature of each step.
The following steps may (or may not!) be part of the chain:
It should also be noted that sometimes these processes are partially or entirely carried out by an integrated company that has facilities to support all these stages of the supply chain. Additionally, some of these stages are skipped when a boat forms a direct link to a fishmongers or restaurant that buys direct from the boat. Some fishermen sell direct to the public (guidance is available through the MMO)
The shellfish market, particularly the lobster and crab sector, generally operates a different scheme to fish. Fishers land directly to merchants on quayside that generally have predetermined clients that will buy their stock, most of which is landed for export markets. Key shellfish ports are Scarborough, Bridlington, Whitby, Cromer, Wells.
Additionally – there are many businesses and services that support the fishing and seafood industry.
Fish markets are generally attached to, or very nearby, fishing ports – so landings can be directly transferred to the market to sell directly to fish merchants and intermediaries. The market will take a fee on the price of the sale for handling and selling the product.
Previously, markets sold seafood through early morning auctions, however technological developments have led to online auctions – so the buyer may not be present and have pre-prepared transport logistics in place. The shellfish market, particularly the lobster and crab sector, generally operates a different scheme to wet fish, and bypasses the market. Shellfish fishers usually land directly to merchants on quayside that have predetermined clients that will buy their stock, most of which is landed for export markets.
Major Fish Markets around the UK:
Processors may prepare and package the “raw” harvested catch into a product ready for consumption by the final consumer. This could include sorting & grading, gutting & filleting fish or de-shelling and picking shellfish, dressing, chilling, freezing, smoking, canning etc. Processors must meet strict food safety and quality standards In 2020, there were around 350 fish processing sites in the UK, supporting approximately 18 thousand full-time equivalent jobs.
Seafood products may be bought and sold through intermediary buyers or merchants – sometimes known as the “middle man” – especially if they do not sell through a local fish market or have a more complex process to reach the end consumer. Intermediaries will generally be experts in the seafood market, who navigate the purchase, processing and transport logistics of the seafood supply chain. This is most typical for shellfish markets.
Logistics usually depends on lorries and vans distributing fresh and frozen seafood around the UK or to Europe. Seafood may also be exported via air freight to countries further afield. There are also couriers to deliver direct sales of live shellfish and fresh fish, although it may be tricky to find a service willing to carry live or fresh fish.
Retailers and restaurants supply seafood to the end consumer. The Discover Seafood Website can be used to:
(Anyone can register – including those who want to make direct sales from their boats.)
The seafood industry also comes together under industry groups to enhance collaboration and represent the interests of the industry. Frequently these groups include people who work directly in the catching sector (and vice versa).
Seafood Association and Industry Group Include:
There are many other industries supplying goods and services to Fisheries and Seafood Sector, for example:
More info on other industries supplying goods and services to the fisheries and seafood sector coming soon.
Fisheries and marine science, research and technology are carried out by public and private organisations, with experienced academics and researchers.
In most cases, the research is carried out to support the sustainable use of marine environments, ecosystems and habitats using different approaches including biological, physical, chemical, social and economic and anthropological research.
Government research bodies and scientists carry out research & data collection and provide advice to the government about fisheries and the marine environment. Their work is generally financed by public funds and guided by the national agenda. They usually have a close working relationship with the government, industry, and other stakeholders in the marine space.
CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) work in the UK, UK overseas Territories and collaborates globally to carry out research and provide advice to the UK government and overseas partners.
Marine Scotland Science is the scientific part of Marine Scotland. They provide scientific, economic, and technical advice and services on marine fisheries as well as other marine industries, as well as provide evidence for decision making.
The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) is a body of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland. It is a multi-disciplinary scientific organisation involved in technology, research and development for DAERA, as well as other Government departments and the industry.
The Marine, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science & Evidence team of the Welsh Government work at the national level to provide the science and evidence needed to support policy development and management decisions.
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is an intergovernmental marine science organisation, providing evidence to governments on the state and sustainable use of the ocean.
Private institutes and bodies that have an interest in working on marine science and fisheries – led by academics and researchers. They may work in partnership with industry or other stakeholders in the marine space, and their research and advice may feed into decision-making processes. They may rely on public (government) and private funding to carry out research.
The Holderness Fishing Industry Group (HFIG), a Fishing community-based research centre
The Technology sector is made up of private companies and organisations that use expertise to develop new technology for a consumer market. In the case of fisheries this might be to develop onboard navigation instruments or fish finders, adapting and improving fishing gear, improving safety at sea, reducing the carbon footprint and fuel use in fishing vessels, etc. They often work closely with the industry – using industry knowledge and ideas to help develop solutions to common problems. As they are usually smaller organisations with a for-profit outcome, so they may be able to work more flexibly and in shorter time frames than government or academia.
Scientific research and data collection requires funding. Public and private funding is available to support fisheries and marine science and technology development. See our Funding section for more information.
Coastal states manage, or jointly manage, the fisheries within their Exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is the government department responsible for UK fisheries policy, which the MMO and devolved authorities largely put into practice, they are responsible for:
Coastal states manage, or jointly manage, fisheries within their Exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Management of territorial waters (within 12 miles of the coastline) is divided between the devolved local and national administrations. Each home nation authority develops management strategies and manages the distribution of quota between Producer Organisations (POs), non-sector vessels and under-10m vessels.
Marine Scotland is a ministry under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Government and leads on monitoring and enforcement for Scottish vessels and Scottish waters.
The Welsh Government takes a centralised approach to fisheries management.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Northern Ireland
DAERA is the Northern Irish governmental department principally responsible for Northern Ireland’s waters, including quotas, monitoring and enforcement.
MMO is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. The MMO’s function is to promote sustainable marine development in England’s waters, in line with government policy. It supports marine businesses, the marine environment, and coastal communities.
The Crown Dependencies of the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man…
Regional management varies widely throughout the UK and there are different scales and administrations that manage different aspects of fisheries, the marine environment and coastal communities. Inshore fisheries management of territorial waters (within 12 miles of the coastline) are principally managed by regional bodies in England and Scotland. Whereas, local authorities are more focused on business, growth and infrastructure. Different regions may also have specific organisations dedicated to the marine environment and sustainability issues.
Inshore Fisheries Management <6nm
Inshore Fisheries Management 6-12nm
IFCAs are exclusive to England. Between them, the 10 IFCAs manage English fisheries out to 6 nautical miles, under the oversight of the MMO, which appoints membership of their committees.
Scotland’s 5 non-statutory RIFGs act as an important consultative group for Scottish fisheries out to 6 nautical miles.
Wales has a more centralised approach to managing inshore fisheries.
Local Authorities provide local government services in their areas. In coastal towns there may be the potential for supporting and enabling local fishing communities through encouraging the sustainable use of local heritage and supporting growth, industry and projects.
The following organisations support collaboration within local authorities:
Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Network – LEP’s are business led partnerships between local authorities and local private sector businesses. They play a central role in determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive economic growth and job creation, improve infrastructure and raise workforce skills within the local area. LEP’s enable access to business funding, support or guidance through local Growth Hubs.
Coastal Communities Alliance: A Coastal Community Team is a local partnership consisting of the local authority and a range of people and business interests from a coastal community who have an understanding of the issues facing that area and can develop an effective forward strategy for that place.
All-Party Parliamentary Fisheries Group (fisheriesappg.org) – a neutral, cross-party forum for debate, discussion and learning within Parliament. The Group was founded by MPs and Peers who want to promote and support the UK fishing industry, whilst exploring key questions for the future of fishing, processing, coastal communities and the marine environment.
Various organisations work closely with management without being part of the UK administration. These are known as Non-departmental public bodies – or NDPBs – and Executive Agencies. They may collaborate with industry, promote business in the industry, collect data and carry out research. Some of the bodies mentioned in this section are also mentioned again in other sections dependent on their area of expertise and focus.
Natural England is a NDPB sponsored by DEFRA. They are government advisers for the natural environment in England with the aim to protect and restore our natural world.
The Environment Agency is a NDPB sponsored by DEFRA. They work to create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development.
Seafish is a NDPB and a key delivery partner of DEFRA. Their principal role is to collaborate with and promote the UK seafood industry.
Scottish Enterprise is Scotland’s national economic development agency and a NDPB of the Scottish Government. They aim to deliver a significant, lasting effect on the Scottish economy working with partners in the public and private sectors to find and exploit the best opportunities.
MMO is a NDPB sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. The MMO’s function is to promote sustainable marine development in England’s waters, in line with government policy. It supports marine businesses, the marine environment, and coastal communities. Their major areas of work include,
NatureScot is a NDPB responsible for advising Scottish Ministers on all matters relating to the natural heritage. Their purpose is it to:
The Marine & Coastguard Agency (MCA) is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department for Transport. They work to prevent the loss of life on the coast and at sea and produce legislation and guidance on maritime matters, and provide certification to seafarers.
The MAIB works with the Department of Transport investigate marine accidents involving UK vessels worldwide and all vessels in UK territorial waters.
Natural Resource Wales (NWR)
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is the largest Welsh Government-sponsored body. They work to ensure the environment and natural resources of Wales are sustainably maintained and used, now and in the future.
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) are funders of environmental science in the UK, commissioning new research, infrastructure and training. NERC is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. They work in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish.
CEFAS are an agency of DEFRA, delivering research and providing advice to UK government and overseas partners. The research aims to:
UK Ports and Harbours provide facilities and oversee operations for all maritime activities. The fishing industry makes up just one component of the activities within ports – there are other industries such as shipping, tourism and energy. Ports are often at the heart of coastal communities and ports have governance structures that are particularly designed to reflect local markets and the needs of local communities – for fishing this may mean overseeing the movement of vessels and vessel safety.
Ports are overseen by a Harbourmaster, an official responsible for enforcing the regulations of a particular harbour or port, in order to ensure the safety of navigation, the security of the harbour and the correct operation of the port facilities.
The annual publication of the Reeds Nautical Almanac is an indispensable guide to harbour charts, safe access, tide tables and information on tidal streams.
List of Major Ports:
Advisory councils are an independent group of expert stakeholders who produce advice based on their knowledge and ability to evaluate many sources of information and recommend actions to decision-makers. Members of advisory councils may represent different interests and need to work together to come to common agreements.
Industry groups are multi-stakeholder groups that include representatives from the fishing industry, science and other interest groups that provide a platform to discuss management and sustainability issues. Bringing together industry members, scientists and management under these groups is a model of decision making based on a collaborative approach to fisheries management. This shows the intention to move towards a co-management approach and they are usually open to all interested parties willing to join and work in a proactive way:
In fisheries, Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) is a term used to identify independent social and environmental organisations that work to support specific causes in the marine and fishing sector. Charities & Trusts are independent organisations focused on goals for public benefit. In the fisheries sector, these are generally related to welfare & social issues and protecting the marine environment. NGOs, Charities & Trusts are usually financed by a mix of philanthropic, private and relevant government funds, with an environmental and social agenda. NGOs focus on a varied set of issues, from creating marine protected areas, slavery at sea, or sustainable fisheries. Similarly – charities and trusts work to promote, raise money, and support causes for the public good – so might be more focused on welfare, sustainability and education.
NGOs, Charities & Trusts working in Fisheries & the marine environment:
Trainers provide career and safety education to people working in fisheries and seafood supply chains.
Fishing media keeps people connected with the fishing industry updated with progress, news and relevant context and opinions.
Journalism is an important part of keeping the people working in UK fisheries updated on industry, political and scientific developments, as well as understanding what is going on around the UK coast and overseas. Here are some links to some of the sources of news and media related to UK Fisheries.