Peterhead market reported a downturn in fish moving across the auction in 2021, which was below 1m boxes for the first time in several years, although this headline figure very much does not tell the full story for the port, which remains the UK’s premier fishing harbour.

A spokesperson at Peterhead Port Authority told Fishing News: “Peterhead continues to flourish, and we continue to see the port used by wide sectors of the fleet, from small potters through to large pelagic purse-seiners.

“2021 was overall a better year than 2020, with the vessels diversifying throughout the year to make best use of their quota, and an increase in shellfish and pelagic landings.”

That only 947,954 boxes of whitefish were sold on Peterhead fishmarket in 2021 nevertheless highlights the fact that some of the challenges facing the industry in 2021 were as great as those seen in 2020.

In 2020, Peterhead’s one-millionth box of whitefish was sold on the market on 12 November – despite all the issues caused by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, when landings and prices temporarily plummeted.

Measures implemented by the market to enable trading to continue through that lockdown and those that followed included implementing a 5,000-box limit on each market, increased later in 2020 to 6,500 boxes, to allow wide spacing between the box tiers and ensure social distancing.

This has allowed continuity at the market, whilst the measures in place have ensured that no Covid outbreak has been connected with Peterhead fishmarket since the start of the pandemic.

The temporary issue seen at the start of 2021, when new Brexit paperwork slowed down export to the EU, forcing some Scottish whitefish vessels to land into Denmark at the start of the year, were solved through close working with Aberdeenshire environmental health officers based at the market.

Indeed, an earlier than usual opening of Peterhead fishmarket on 4 January this year saw several of the Scottish fleet return from landing in Hanstholm at the end of December, to put part-trips in for the first sales of the year, when demand is typically very high.

Peterhead Port Authority remains upbeat about the prospects for the market in 2022. The spokesperson said: “There will still be concerns that cod will act as a choke species, but we have access to Norway waters, which will see a larger run of fish come in, for which there is very strong demand. There is also the potential this year to swap in more cod.

“For the port as a whole, with its very wide mixture of vessels and landings, and the market itself, which remains very competitive, we are expecting 2022 to be a good year.”

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. Main image credit: Ryan Cordiner

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