Fuelling the decline in UK fishing communities?

Volatile fuel prices are a threat to the viability of UK fishing communities. The economic and social impacts of rising fuel costs for fishers and communities in southwest England are examined. Fuel prices doubled between early 2007 and mid-2008, whereas fish prices remained relatively stable throughout as a result of the price-setting power of seafood buyers. It was the fishers who absorbed the increased costs, resulting in significant loss of income, reduced job security, and problems in recruiting crew. All gear types were affected, but fishers using towed gears were most adversely impacted. Fishing vessels with recent investment have greater fuel efficiency, so appeared to be more able to cope and to adapt to increased fuel costs. Fishing behaviour also altered as skippers attempted to increase fuel efficiency at the cost of reduced catches. Most skippers reported fishing closer to port, reducing their exploratory fishing, and ceasing experimentation with fishing gears with lesser environmental impact. Therefore, a threat to fishing community viability may have linked environmental effects. The impacts of this fuel price volatility foreshadow a likely future impact of rising fuel prices attributable to climate change adaptation and mitigation and forecasts of rising oil prices. Without proactive planning and policy development, rising fuel prices have the potential to cause job losses and economic hardship additional to problems that may arise from poor management and stock decline, in all fishing-related sectors of the industry.


Citation:

Abernethy, K.E., Trebilcock, P., Kebede, B., Allison, E.H., Dulvy, N.K. (2010)
ICES Journal of Marine Science 67(5): 1076–1085
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