THE value of fish and ­shellfish landed by Scottish boats has dropped by 8% to £429 million, although the quantity remained largely the same, underlining the vagaries of the market.

The number of people employed in the industry increased by 5%, the first rise since 2008, according to provisional statistics published by Scotland's Chief Statistician

A 10% drop in the quantity of shellfish was partly responsible for the overall fall in value. However, fishermen's leaders also pointed to the increased catches of white fish by Icelandic and Norwegian boats as having an impact on the market.

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Overall, mackerel was the most valuable stock, accounting for 29% of the total value of Scottish landings at 134,000 tonnes. But they were 4% lower in value.

However, Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead described the figures as indicating a strong performance by the industry.

He said: "Strong international supplies of some of our more popular species, like cod, put pressure on prices for white fish, and our prawn fleet had a challenging year with unusually poor catches, although the signs for 2014 are encouraging."

But Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "This alarming drop in the quayside value of seafood landed underlines the tremendous pressures faced by our fishing fleet.

"Scottish seafood is renowned around the world, yet despite signs of global economic recovery, it would seem that the market for our fish and shellfish is showing little sign of improving."

But he said that the fish stocks on the northern continental shelf "are in robust and rude health".