FISHING business Whitelink Seafoods has increased the value of its licences by £1.2 million amid strong demand for its products amid uncertainty about what Brexit will mean for the industry.

The Fraserburgh-based group has also invested heavily in its fleet in another move that signals confidence for the prospects for the industry in spite of tensions between fleets from the UK and other European Union countries.

Details of the changes in Whitelink’s asset base are included in accounts which show the group achieved a big increase in sales and profits in the latest year.

Owned by the Sutherland family, Whitelink Seafoods grew turnover to £118 million in the 18 months to December 28. That compared with £74m in the year to June 28 1917.

The company extended the length of its accounting period by a half, to 18 months from a year, but sales rose 60%.

Operating profits rose around 330%, to £2.47m, from £0.6m.

In the accounts for the group, which combines fishing and processing operations, directors said the increase in sales reflected the strength of demand for its products.

They noted the company’s net assets had increased to £10.3m at the year end, from £7.6m, reflecting its policy of retaining profits and reinvesting them in the business.

After five licences were valued during the year, the valuation of permits increased by £1.23m. Firms need a licence to sell most fish caught at sea. Domestic licences covering UK and European Union set limits for the stocks boats can fish and land.

Whitelink invested £3.3m in vessels and equipment. It acquired MC Fishing for an undisclosed sum.

The company noted uncertainty about the likely impact of Brexit.

Some champions of Brexit argue it would strengthen the UK industry as the country would be expected to leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.But UK fish exports could be subject to tariffs if the country leaves the EU without an exit deal being agreed first and approved by parliament.

There have been disputes between UK fishing businesses and operators from other countries recently off Rockall and Shetland. In August, Whitelink director Graeme Sutherland called for the Royal Navy to protect British boats following clashes with French scallop fishermen in the English channel.