The English Fleet
According to recent Defra figures, the English fishing fleet consists of some 3000 registered vessels, around 70% of which are active.
There are around 2000 under 10m vessels (traditionally referred to as “the inshore fleet”) of which around 1000 have uncapped licences permitting them to land more than 300kg of quota species a year. More than half of the inshore fleet are under 8m. The inshore fleet represent some 65% of full time employment across the fleet, with the majority of landings being non-quota stocks, particularly shellfish.
In contrast, the over 10m fleet has fewer, larger vessels and employs less people. Due to its greater capacity, technical efficiency and higher quota allocation, it lands over 7 times more fish by quantity (4 times more by value). Most landings are of quota stocks and the majority of Fixed Quota Allocation units (FQAs) are held by this part of the fleet (96%)
The divide between over 10m and under 10m vessels, and the difference in requirements to report landings, has resulted in a threshold effect. A number of owners sold their larger boats (and in some cases also sold quota units) and commissioned new “super under-10 vessels” which meant they could fish without having to report their landings. These vessels have much greater catching capacity than “traditional” under-10m vessels. In total 9.5-10m vessels land significantly more fish (referred to in the industry as “rule beaters” or “super-under 10s”) in terms of value and volume, than the remainder of the inshore fleet combined.
In Wales, fleet numbers are approximately 435, about 35 of which are over ten metres in length (and include 'Flag' ships owned by mainly Spanish interests).
The 400 or so Welsh under ten metre vessels did not face a cap on licences as did their English cousins but the vast majority of them work nets and pots for shellfish and do not focus on quota species anyway. There are no specific figures available to differentiate between active and non active Welsh vessels but the Welsh Assembly Government quotes the industry as supporting 600 fishing businesses.