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This briefing paper examines trends in the UK fisheries industry, including landings, employment, fleet size, trade, economic output and comparisons with EU countries.

The commercial fisheries industry in the UK is made up of three sectors: fishing (inshore and offshore fishing), aquaculture (fish farming) and fish processing (preparing fish for food consumption).

Economic output

In 2019, the fishing and aquaculture industry contributed £446 million to the UK economy in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA, which is similar to GDP). The sector accounted for 3.44% of the broader agricultural, forestry and fishing sector, and 0.02% of the UK’s total GVA across all sectors.

In 2018, 61% of economic output from the fishing and aquaculture industry was generated in Scotland.

Employment and fleet size

The total number of fishers in the UK was around 12,000 in 2019, down from around 20,000 in the mid-1990s. In 2019, 45% of fishers were based in England, 40% in Scotland, 7% in Northern Ireland and 7% in Wales.


The number of fishing vessels in the UK fleet has fallen by 32% since 1996.


UK vessels land around 400,000 tonnes of fish each year in the UK, and between 200,000 and 300,000 tonnes abroad.

Landings by the UK fleet were down in 2019, around a 11% reduction on 2018. Reduced landings in pelagic fish account for much of this fall. The value of landings by the UK fleet has increased in recent years to just over £1 billion in 2018, although there was a small decrease in 2019 when landings were worth £987 million.



The UK is a net importer of fish and related products, with net imports of around 358,000 tonnes in 2019, worth £1.7 billion.


International comparisons

In 2019, the UK fleet had the second-largest total catch (in terms of landed weight) and the second-largest fleet size (in gross tonnage terms) compared with EU countries.

Fish processing

There were 353 fish processing sites in the UK in 2018, operated by 337 companies. Fish processing sites accounted for 19,179 full-time equivalent jobs in 2018. The fish processing industry is focused in Humberside and Grampian. Combined these two areas accounted for 53% of full-time equivalent jobs in the sector.

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