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Fish processing

The UK fish processing sub-sector covers the freezing of fish and other fish processing and preserving activities. The sub-sector employs more than 15,800 in more than 400 workplaces across Great Britain. There are many well-known companies, such as Birds Eye, International Fish Canners, Lyons Seafood and Young’s Seafood.

There are more than 15,300 people working in the fish sub-sector, representing 4% of those employed in Great Britain’s food and drink manufacturing sector. 82% of the workforce in located in Scotland and Yorkshire and Humberside.

There are over 400 workplaces in the sub-sector. 4% of businesses employ 200 or more staff, 59% employ 10 or less staff.

There has been significant growth in the sale of chilled and frozen Pollock, and fresh mussels.

Jobs in the sub-sector range from: refrigeration engineer, development technologist, buyer, fish-filleter, smokehouse operative, packer, canner

There is demand for some specialist roles in the fish sub-sector, as employers find it increasingly difficult to recruit these workers. Demand is high for fish-filleters, smokehouse operators, new product development roles, quality assurance roles, and engineers (the engineer’s role in this sub-sector requires a broader base of engineering skills; mechanical, electrical, and some computing).

Workforce statistics:

  • 65% of the workforce is male.
  • 89% of the workforce is white, 7% Asian/British Asian and 4% other minority background
  • More than 2,600 migrant workers (non-UK nationals) are estimated to be working in the sub-sector.
  • 15% of the workforce is aged 25-29 years, 20% is 35-39 years and 13% is 50-54 years.
  • 47% of the current workforce will be eligible for retirement within the next 20 years.
  • 7% of the workforce has some form of work limited disability.
  • 7% of the workforce has a degree or equivalent qualification.
  • The highest qualification for the majority of the workforce is GCSE grades A-C (19%) or A Levels (22%).
  • 17% of the workforce has no qualifications.
  • 90% of the workforce is employed full-time.

Source: Improve AACS LMI report 2010 and Fish Labour Market information profile 2009/10

Fish processing workforce by region, 2000 and 2007


Source: Fish Labour Market information profile 2009/10, page 2. Data derived from the Annual Business Inquiry 2000 and 2007.

Occupational profile of the fish processing workforce, 2008


Source: Fish Labour Market information profile 2009/10, page 6. Data derived from the Labour Force Survey 2008.