Seafood processing data and insight

We gather and analyse data on the seafood processing sector in the UK including financial performance and employment.

Access our latest datasets and reports on the economic performance of the UK's processing sector on the following links below.

For more details, bespoke analysis or a tutorial on how to use the Processing Enquiry Tool, please contact processingenquiries@seafish.co.uk

What size is the seafood processing sector in the UK?

The seafood processing sector in the UK has contracted since 2012. Although the number of sites has reduced, much of that is due to company takeovers and consolidation.

In 2021 there are 344 majority seafood processing sites across the UK. Some of these sites belong to multi-site companies.

Scotland (particularly the Grampian region) and the Humber region in England are the main seafood processing hubs in the UK. These regions have the most processing sites and support the most jobs in the sector.

In 2018 turnover of the seafood processing sector in the UK was £3.1 billion.

What seafood does the UK process most?

The UK processes most seafood types and mixed species factories are the most common. Processors use fish caught and landed in UK waters and fish imported from the rest of the world.

Shellfish processing takes place all around the UK. Most of the factories are small (under 25 employees).

Almost all of the salmon and pelagic (mackerel, herring) processing takes place in Scotland.

Primary processing is the process of cutting, filleting, de-boning, peeling, washing, packing, heading and/or gutting. There are 82 sites specialising in primary processing and over half of those sites have less than 10 employees.

Secondary processing is the process of freezing, smoking, canning, brining, breading or making ready meals. There are 37 sites specialising in secondary processing. Six of these sites account for 82% of the FTE jobs at secondary processing sites.

How many people does the seafood processing sector in the UK employ? 

Like many food industries, many seafood processing businesses in the UK rely on seasonal workers with many of those workers coming from other EU countries. Depending on the type of processing employment can vary through the year, particularly in the run up to Christmas.

In 2021 there are 18,021 Full Time Equivalent jobs in seafood processing sites across the UK.

9,242 of those jobs are filled by employees identifying as male and 5,747 female. The remaining 3,031 FTEs did not disclose gender.

How have Covid-19 and Brexit impacted the UK seafood processing sector?

Around 51% of those employed in seafood processing are from the EU, 48% are from the UK and 1% are from non-EU countries.

Changes to free movement of people after the UK left the EU have impacted the seafood processing industry in the UK.

From 2017 to 2019 we carried out quarterly surveys with seafood processing businesses in the UK to identify recruitment and labour issues. In particular we wanted to identify any issues with ensuring processing businesses still had access to skilled labour. Access the quarterly surveys on the following links below. 

Our latest analyses on the impact of Covid-19 on the processing sector are published on the following links below.

Cutting Edge magazine 

Our processing sector magazine Cutting Edge looks at the stories behind successful seafood processing businesses in the UK. We cover the creative and innovative approaches taken to overcome the challenges facing the sector and improve business for the future.

The first edition, published in 2019, features stories on expanding markets, resource efficiency, training opportunities and much, much more.

You can read the magazine digitally on Issuu by clicking the image below. Hard copies are available on request, please email cuttingedge@seafish.co.uk

Processing survey

Every year we collect and analyse financial performance and employment data on the processing sector in the UK. This provides the industry and Government with information about the performance of the sector.