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Fishing Industry Sees Seismic Shift after Fuel Price Increases

by Ellen Hardy
23 May 2008, at 1:00am

UK - Seafish, the British Sea Fish Industry Authority, said today that the impact of rising fuel prices would inevitably have a significant effect on the price of fish for UK consumers over the next twelve to eighteen months.

According to research undertaken by Seafish economists, the effect of fuel price rises will vary according to the type of vessel and type of gear used to catch fish, but would be in a range between 7% and 50%, with the average price increase across all species landed in the UK being 23 per cent.

Between 2007 and 2008, the cost of the diesel fuel used to power fishing vessels has increased from 31p to 60p – and this cost is expected to rise further as estimates from Goldman Sachs and other analysts predict crude oil prices rising to $150 per barrel, and possible spikes up to $200 per barrel.

"We are now seeing a complete change in the cost of bringing the catch to market," said Philip MacMullen, Head of Environment at Seafish.

"There's a lot we can do to try to mitigate cost increases, including looking at different fishing methods and improvements to gear technology. Nonetheless, consumers must be prepared for significant increases in the cost of seafood if we are to continue to have a viable catching, processing and distribution sector in the UK."

The measures being taken by fishermen include an increase in the use of static gears like gillnets and longlines which don’t require the fishing vessel to tow gear through the water, more fuel efficient engines and less trawling. Measures such as these can improve the ratio of fish caught per unit of fuel used – in other words, they can make fishing more efficient.

"Study after study shows that eating seafood is essential for good health," continued Philip MacMullen.

"There are many different species of fish with high levels of omega 3 fatty acids which can be fished sustainably including all the oil rich fish and shellfish like crabs, mussels and oysters. All of these provide good sources of omega 3, the complex fatty acid vital to maintaining a healthy heart, and other health benefits. Many of these are also quite cheap.

"Overall, though, consumers are going to have to accept that some price increases are inevitable as fuel costs rise further beyond anything we have seen before. It’s also likely that if current trends continue we will see fishing effort decrease overall and, possibly, the number of boats fishing in UK waters decline as it may become too expensive to put out to sea."

Ellen Hardy