Shetland fishing industry records biggest catch since 1987

Shetland's fishing fleet enjoyed a record 2016. Picture: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Shetland's fishing fleet enjoyed a record 2016. Picture: David Cheskin/PA Wire

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The white fish market on Shetland has reported is biggest yearly landings in almost three decades.

A total of 357,101 boxes of white fish were sold on the islands after more than 300,000 were landed in the ports of Lerwick and Scalloway in four consecutive years.

The record catches have been caused by abundant stocks and a discard ban for selected white fish species, which took landings to 1987 levels when 390,000 boxes were traded.

Martin Leyland, of Shetland Seafood Auctions, said: “It has been an extremely busy year, with a large volume of high quality fish and good prices, so the value figures will be up too.

“The electronic auction system has resulted in steady growth in landings since it was introduced in 2003, and now that boats and buyers alike are familiar and comfortable with it, we are well placed to support the industry, especially as we look forward to the construction of the new market at Mair’s Quay and the proposed refurbishment of the Scalloway fish market.”

Shetland is the second biggest port in the UK for white fish landings after Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.

More fish is landed on the islands than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.

The catches have led to confidence in the industry and investment in new vessels and training.

Brian Isbister, chief executive of the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation, said: “I can’t remember a time during my career when stocks have been so healthy and quotas have more or less reflected the stocks.

“Confidence is high in the industry and as we have seen again this year, that’s leading to investment in the future by crews, whether in new or improved boats or in training.

“It’s vital that this confidence is maintained to sustain the communities around Shetland that are dependent on fishing and the islands’ economy in general.”

Simon Collins, executive officer of Shetland Fishermen’s Association, said the industry is united about the way forward and he insisted the interests of fishermen should not be traded away as part of the Brexit negotiations.

He said: “More than anyone else, fishermen themselves have worked hard to turn their industry into the sustainable entity it is today. That needs to be recognised as we dispense with unworkable international management and build a sensible, practical system for the future.”

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