Fish factory fire hits landings and prices

By Linda Groves

- Last updated on GMT

Peterhead Port from the air
Peterhead Port from the air
Northbay Pelagic’s fish processing unit in Peterhead is likely to be out of action until the tail end of the herring season, hitting UK landings and probably reducing prices.

The factory’s processing and packing lines along with its office and administration block were destroyed in a major fire on January 17, which raged for 10 hours.

The company has submitted its rebuilding plans including a new central processing plant, engineer’s workshop and chill rooms but the factory is not expected to run again until September.

The loss of the unit has already reduced landings of mackerel and probably also lowered prices as Northbay Pelagic was, according to its landlord Peterhead Port Authority, a major buyer.

It bought fish in the UK and on the Norges Sildesalgslag, the Norwegian Fishermen’s sales organisation for pelagic fish and Europe’s largest marketplace for their first-hand sale.

“The recent fire at Northbay Pelagic had an immediate impact on mackerel landings during the January fishery​,” said Stephen Paterson, chief financial officer at Peterhead Port Authority.

Worse deal for fishermen

Ian Gatt, ceo of The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, said the company was known for paying very competitive prices to fishermen.

Therefore, it is likely that with the facility out of the market, fishermen would be getting a worse deal.  Gatt said: “They will be missed until they are operational.”

Northbay Pelagic’s redevelopment plans have been “unanimously approved”​ by Peterhead Port Authority and lodged with Aberdeenshire Council.

A task force run by Aberdeenshire Council and Marine Scotland is supporting the company with the redevelopment.

‘Nationally important processor’

John Wallace, chief executive of Peterhead Port Authority, said: “Northbay Pelagic Ltd is a nationally important processor exporting a high quality product all over the world.This speaks volumes about their capabilities …

“The current indications are that they intend to be back up and running within eight months of the fire. Considering the extent of the devastation, Northbay directors, management and the task force run by Aberdeenshire Council and Marine Scotland are to be congratulated by all those affected.

“Clearly those with most to celebrate this good news are the workforce, but the benefits will be felt on a much wider basis.”

Based on Wallace’s comments, the factory should be back in action in time for the start of the second mackerel season, which runs from September to November.

Northbay Pelagic employs 120 full-time workers who are undertaking alternative duties until the factory is rebuilt with some production staff redeployed to other local processors.

The herring season in Scotland runs from mid-June until early September.

Related topics: Supply Chain, Meat, poultry & seafood

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