Moray Firth & North Coast Seafood Initiative Feasibility Study

Today, most UK seafood is exported, yet most seafood consumed in the UK is imported. (Source: Seafish)

The North, Moray Firth and East coasts include three major fishing ports and are home to a large proportion of the UK fishing fleet. Scrabster has mainly demersal landings and about a quarter shellfish. Nearly half of Fraserburgh’s total landings are shellfish, and it is the UK’s largest Nephrops port. Round the coast, Peterhead is one of Europe’s largest white fish and pelagic ports. On the north-west coast, ports such as Kinlochbervie, Lochinver and Ullapool are all within a short distance by road. The whole project area has a strong fishing heritage yet there are relatively few sources of locally landed fish, of stated provenance, either in restaurants or sold to cook at home. A number of economic and social factors have combined over decades to reach this current anomalous situation, which prompted this study.

The aims of this short scoping study were:-

1. to gather more information about the local situation round the Moray Firth and North coast areas regarding the availability of and demand for local seafood produce;

2. to identify if there was support for proposals to increase the availability of locally landed seafood;

3. to generate ideas and links, and to develop specific proposals for practical, local actions as part of an integrated and sustainable seafood project that would complement and add impetus to ongoing national initiatives.

There are a number of government and industry initiatives ongoing or planned to help to get the nation eating more seafood. But there is a growing public feeling that much more of the seafood eaten here should be Scottish, locally landed, and less imported, even if only on the environmental grounds of reducing transport costs and ‘food miles’. Visitors to this country, used to eating Scottish produce in their home country, are amazed at the lack of that same product in our restaurants and shops.

The public desire for more local food, “Slow Food” and low food miles has also been fuelled by recent scandals such as horse – meat. This helped show how little is known about the content or provenance of some mass-produced foodstuffs, and the damaging effects of the constant drive for cheaper food. The time is seen to be right for an extra “push” to redress the balance.

In order to complete this study, we set up a steering group and, with their advice and input, carried out a range of surveys, meetings and conversations with representatives across different sectors. These included members of the public, fishermen, catering, hospitality, tourism, wholesale and retail, processors etc., as well as the agencies involved, to get a broad range of opinions and ideas as to what was already in place, what the gaps in provision were, and how these could be met.

It was not within the scope of this study to look at external factors such as climate change, changes in EU fish quotas, fisheries management etc. The conclusions we promote regarding increasing the availability of seafood are based on the expectation of fishing quotas etc being set to ensure long-term sustainable seafood supplies, coupled with continuing improvements in local accountability and fisheries management through the development of the Inshore Fisheries Groups etc.

The report is a summary and distillation of the information gathered, presented in a non-technical format that we hope will be of interest to a wider readership, and not just to those currently involved in the seafood industry. We have included mention of a range of information sources, but this is not intended in any way to be a comprehensive guide. Detailed responses from the surveys are either included as an appendix or available separately where the files are not in an easily printable format or include confidential data ().

The extract Executive Summary and main findings can be downloaded here.




This project is part-financed by the Scottish Government, the Highland European Fisheries Fund and the Highland Council.