Fishing is one of the oldest industries in the Moray Firth, dating from as far back as 8,000 years ago when hunter-gatherers followed the coast in search of food, surviving primarily on fish and shellfish. Many of the region’s coastal towns grew as the fishing industry grew and their fortunes continue to be closely linked to the industry.

Herring were the mainstay of the Scottish fishing industry from the 1900s to the 1960s and were of major economic importance in post war years. Herring declined drastically in the North Sea from the 1950s, leading to the closure of the fishery in 1977 as a result of overfishing of adults and immature fish on nursery grounds and the poor survival of young herring. From 1977 until 1983 all directed catches of North Sea herring, including those of the Moray Firth were banned in order that stocks could recover. The Kessock Herring Fishery was at its peak in 1966/67 when 200 boats were engaged in drift net, ring net or pair trawl fishing.  Read more....

In recent years, stringent management measures seeking to reverse the decline in fish stocks have had a profound impact on the industry and many of the coastal communities. Fisheries worked from the Moray Firth include offshore, inshore and freshwater.  Read more on Moray Firth stocks and species....

In financial terms the offshore fishery industry, operated from the landing districts of Scrabster, Buckie and Fraserburgh and targeting demersal whitefish and pelagic species, is by far the most important.  In 2009 landings to these three districts had a value over £89 million and supported 434 vessels employing 1266 fishermen (20% of Scottish fishermen). It is this fishery that has been hit hard by the recent management measures.

The inshore fishery industry, which is much smaller in volume and financial terms, has however been vital to many of the smaller ports in the Firth. The species targeted, the fishing methods used and the size of vessel are all significantly different from the offshore fishery. The main inshore landing ports are Buckie, Burghead, Wick, Lybster and Fraserburgh, but landings are also recorded for many of the smaller ports. The inshore landings are dominated by squid and nephrops. 

There is also significant salmon and sea-trout fishing in the Moray Firth and its 11 catchment river systems. Did you know that more than one third of Scotland’s main salmon rivers flow into the Moray Firth, making it one of the most important catchment areas?  The annual migrations of salmon and sea trout to spawn provides a seasonal bounty, and from medieval times salmon were salted and exported to Europe. Today, rod and line fishing on rivers like the Spey attracts anglers from around the world, and netting is still practiced in some of the communities along the coast.