A NEW research project is to be launched looking into the performance of fishing fleet.

Vessel owners and skippers from around the UK are being asked to participate by Seafish, the public body that supports the £10 billion UK seafood industry.

The researchers will travel the length and breadth of the UK’s coastline gathering data on financial and operational performance.

With a changing political environment, increasing weather variability and a public focus on sustainable and responsibly sourced seafood, fishermen will be canvassed on these challenges.

There’s hope that the 2018 Fleet Survey will reveal more positive news for the industry after a strong performance in 2017 which saw total fishing income for UK vessels rising by £38 million. This was mainly driven by higher prices for many shellfish species.

Despite a rise in income, many fishermen highlighted the availability of fish, access to quota, fuel price, weather and other issues as potential threats to their businesses and their financial performance.

The findings from the Fleet Survey, to be published in 2019, have the potential to influence policy and give an accurate insight into the health of the fishing industry. With the UK set to exit the EU next year, those conducting the survey think it is crucial skippers and vessel owners have their say.

“It’s vital we paint an accurate picture of the economic performance of the fishing industry and find out the biggest achievements and challenges fishers have met over the past year,” said Steve Lawrence, economics project manager at Seafish.

“This insight means we can keep all those involved in the sector fully informed on the health of the fleet. The report is also made available to policy makers and it is a good opportunity for fishermen to voice their opinion on the big issues affecting them.”

“We had a great response to last year’s survey, with over 400 skippers and vessel owners taking part.

“We hope to increase the number of people we speak to this year so that the insight we gather is as accurate as possible.

“We appreciate the continued support of the fishing industry across the UK and encourage all skippers and vessel owners to speak to our researchers.

“If we don’t hear from you then we aren’t able to promote your achievements and concerns to decision makers.”

All vessel owners can benefit from participation by requesting a free financial performance benchmark report which allows comparisons with the average performance of other similar vessels.

The survey is supported by the national federations and local associations around the UK and all information provided is treated as confidential. No individual vessel figures will be revealed in any report.

Seafish will also later this year publish its annual Quay Issues magazine which will contain stories and features gathered by the researchers.