Seafood processing data and insight

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

Seafood is processed in the UK using fish caught and landed in UK waters and fish imported from the rest of the world. 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 a view on the performance of the sector. 

Our most recent data comes from data we collected about the sector performance in 2017 and 2018. The full data is available from the Seafood Processing Industry Performance report which was published in 2019. We are currently collecting data for 2020 which will be published in 2021. 

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. 

  • There are 353 seafood processing sites across the UK. Many of these are larger processing businesses with multiple sites.
  • Scotland (particularly the Grampian region) and Humberside in England are the seafood processing hubs in the UK. These regions have the most processing sites and provide the most employment in the sector. 

What is the turnover of the seafood processing sector in the UK?

In 2017, turnover of the seafood processing sector in the UK was £3.4 billion. Although down from the previous year, operating profit increased from 2016 to £390 million. 

• Operating costs in 2017 went down. This was largely driven by a decrease in the cost of raw materials from 2016.

• The processing sector in the UK rack up a lot of costs. In 2017, raw materials cost £2.6 billion followed by labour costing £405 million. Other operating costs such as machinery cost £223 million and energy cost £40 million. 

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

Like many food industries, seafood processing in the UK relies on seasonal workers with many of those workers coming from within the EU.

  • In 2018, there were 19,191 Full Time Equivalent jobs in seafood processing sites across the UK. This is made up of 16, 318 full time jobs, 2,247 seasonal jobs and 626 part time jobs. 
  • 11,553 of those employed are male and 7,638 are female.
  • Depending on the type of processing, employment can vary through the year. Particularly in the run up to Christmas.

How will Brexit impact employment in the seafood processing sector in the UK? 

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 leaves the EU will impact 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.

Recruitment and labour in the UK seafood processing sector

What seafood does the UK process most? 

The UK processes most seafood types and mixed species factories are the most common. 

  • Shellfish processing happens all around the UK. Most of the factories are small (under 25 employees). 
  • Almost all of the salmon and pelagic (mackerel, herring) processing happens in Scotland.
  • Primary processing is the process of cutting, filleting, de-boning, peeling, washing, packing, heading, gutting. There are 96 sites doing primary processing only 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 48 sites doing secondary processing only. Six of these sites account for 72% of FTE jobs. 

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.  

Published annually, the first edition features stories on expanding markets, resource efficiency, training opportunities and much, much more. 

You can read the magazine digitally on Issu by clicking the image below. Hard copies are available on request from cuttingedge@seafish.co.uk 

Do you need specific data on seafood processing in the UK? 

We have created a Seafood Processing Enquiry Tool to let you get hands on with our seafood processing data. The tool has been built with Tableau, a tool which makes data more visual and easier to understand. 

We have added all of the financial, employment and species data we have on the seafood processing sector in the UK since 2010. You can use the various filters to find specific data. 

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