2020 Fleet Survey: virtual but vital

Fleet survey manager Kirsten Milliken talks about her involvement with the project over the years and why it's being run differently this time.

I began my career in the seafood industry as a Fleet Survey researcher with Seafish in 2014. That summer I spoke to fishers the length and breadth of the country. They told me about their fishing businesses, the challenges and opportunities they faced and the changes they had seen happen in the industry over years.

Born in Shetland and raised in Kirkcudbright I had always been close to fishing communities, and it was a joy to be back amongst them, clambering (rather ungracefully) onto fishing boats in the rain to do a survey with the skipper, or being invited into their homes for a cup of tea and a chat. Everywhere I went, people gave up their time to speak to me, whether at 4am before heading out to sea or at 11pm after coming back from a fishing trip. 

The annual fleet survey is a vital opportunity for skippers and vessel owners to tell us about their businesses, what’s going on, how they’re being affected by changes, and what concerns they have for the future. The economic data we collect through the survey means that we can measure the health of the industry, and show how fishing business and communities are adapting. This year Covid-19 has brought unprecedented challenges to the industry, so now more than ever, insight from the fishing industry is crucial to the success of the survey.  

I’ve worked on the Fleet Survey every year since 2014. More recently, I’ve managed our team of researchers as they headed to all corners of the UK to collect data, but that’s not the case this time. When the Covid-19 pandemic emerged and lockdown began we realised that we’d have to do the survey differently this year.

All UK vessel owners should have received a survey pack in the post and an invitation to take part in the survey. While this isn’t the same as being able to speak to one of our researchers face to face,  our researchers from last year - Joe, Oscar and Carlos - are back to work on the project. They are available by phone or video chat.  If you haven’t received your survey pack yet or if you have changed your addresses recently, get in touch with us and we’ll send you a new one, or arrange phone interview.

A lot has changed since I started working with Seafish in 2014, but one thing has stayed the same; the passionate, determined and stalwart attitude of the industry, proved as they worked tirelessly throughout the lockdown to feed the nation. The Fleet Survey is your chance to help us to tell your story.