Seafish economics project manager Nick Patience reflects on a summer of fleet research and makes a final call for fishermen to take part

In July, four new researchers, and two veterans in the field, travelled across the UK to speak with fishing vessel owners and skippers. For three months, this work has taken the team from Shetland to Cornwall, and everywhere in between. However, their travels are now at an end, as the in-person element of our survey draws to a close.

Fear not, however, as the fleet survey team will be back again next summer! If you missed them this time around but still want to get involved in the 2022 survey, find out how below.

Our research into the fleet began almost 20 years ago, and has enabled us to learn first-hand about the ever-transforming challenges and opportunities for the seafood industry. Whilst we retain some of our old ways, such as issuing survey packs with pre-paid envelopes, much has changed since our inaugural pen-and-paper survey. Technology has enabled us not only to create virtual forms which gather more detailed data, but to keep this information safe and secure.

One area we will always try to keep offline is the in-person element of our survey work. We realised during the Covid-19 pandemic, when we weren’t able to conduct our physical survey, just how vital it was to understanding the industry and the people who work within it, to get out there and have those conversations.

So what do we do with the data we collect? Whilst we thoroughly enjoy our conversations with every fisher, there is more to the survey than having chats. We gather data on vessel characteristics, vessel operations, employment, which factors have affected operations, and business plans. One of the most important questions we ask relates to business records, which helps us to understand how costs and profit are changing over time.

Once we have all the data, our economists put their heads together and crunch the numbers, creating reports and datasets to explain what is happening in every section of the industry, and what this means for the fleet’s future. These reports are also used by policy-makers to understand the impact of fisheries management measures.

The reports released include:

  • ‘The Economics of the UK Fishing Fleet’, which presents economic estimates at UK, home nation and fleet segment level for the UK fishing fleet
  • The Fleet Enquiry Tool, an interactive online tool capturing data on the size, structure and economic performance of the UK catching (and processing) sectors
  • Quay Issues magazine, which goes behind the numbers to the beating heart of the industry, with stories from fishers across the nation.

Owners who take part in the survey can also request a free benchmark report which compares their vessel’s financial performance with similar vessels across the UK. This can not only help identify where improvements can be made, but can also be used as evidence in grant or loan applications.

With so much data to collect and analyse, the process of turning the information into reports which we can release publicly takes around 12 months.

The deadline for getting involved in the 2022 survey is 31 October. If you’d still like to participate, please get in touch with us today by emailing:

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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