23rd March 2018
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Views from the Scord

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Community council

The Scalloway Community Council met on Monday this week and were treated to presentations from SIC staff Colin Gair and Graham MacDonald.

Mr Gair attended representing the roads department and was there to report to the community council on a variety of current and future issues in the area. The most significant of these was the issue of road safety in relation to the new housing schemes at the East Voe, and the ensuing increased pedestrian usage of the inadequate pavements of the Mill Brae into Scalloway. This matter was brought to the community council by the Scalloway school Parent Council as a particular safety issue for school children walking up the brae and then crossing the road to reach the school.

His assurances that safety was a priority for the SIC in this matter were well received by the members and he continued on to other matters including the possibility of improved pavements along the East Voe road, which he could re-affirm was still on the SIC’s capital programme. He also addressed the matter of pedestrian safety with increased leisure usage of the Tingwall valley road and outlined plans to further improve the single-track road to remove blind spots that exist at present and create further passing places where needed.

Next up was Graeme Mac­Donald, the council’s cleansing and grounds maintenance official, who gave a highly enthusiastic account of the plans to introduce wheelie bins into the area on a voluntary basis. Under this scheme, the public are welcome to continue using standard refuse sacks, but those wishing to use the wheeled, solid plastic upright containers for their waste will soon be able to do so, with the bins available for a charge from the SIC. This subject, and more so the delivery of it, went down very well with the members and commendation of the two officials and their subject matters continued after they left the meeting.

After reviewing a number of longstanding agenda items, including the decision not to reinstate flood lighting on Scalloway Castle, new agenda items brought to the meeting were: the matter of the new local area policeman residing elsewhere in Shetland, which was deemed to be not in keeping with the tradition of having them live in the village; the prospect of a dial-a-bus service for the transport of patients to the local surgery; the proposals put forward in the Blueprint for Education and its implementation and long term effect on the community; the recent special meeting of the Association of Community Councils to discuss the best means of ensuring that the maximum value of community benefits be obtained from renewable energy developments that impact directly on the community and the means for this to be implemented without compromising the neutrality of community councils.

A lightsome item that arose was the awarding of the trophy for the best Christmas window display for a local business, which was awarded to Hunter’s fish shop on the Scalloway Main Street. The council does not meet in December as they distribute hampers to the elderly in place of a meeting, so the decision was carried forward until this week. Speaking at the trophy presentation, which took place at the shop on Tuesday, owner Andrew Hunter said he was glad to accept the trophy but added: “All credit was due to our bairns [Campbell and Cheryl] and Vivien [wife and co-owner] as it was them that had the idea and did the work.” Chairman of the community council, Arnold Duncan, congratulated them and wished them every success in the forthcoming year.

The next meeting of the Scalloway Community Council will be on the third Monday in February and anyone wishing to raise an item should contact the clerk or one of the members.

Harbour activity

The fisheries protection vessel Jura lay at the west commercial quay for four days last week. The distinctive grey vessel is no stranger to the main east coast port but this visit to Scalloway stands out as unusual due to the infrequency of her usage of Scalloway for shelter or re-supply. On this occasion she had only intended to lay alongside for a short period but the severe forecast persuaded her master to remain in shelter for an extended period.

The storm of last weekend drew in a large number of vessels at its peak, mostly fishing boats hailing from Scottish mainland ports of Inverness, Banff and Peterhead. The Acorn, Aquarius, Norlan and Rose Bloom all made for shelter on Friday and on Saturday were followed in by the Boy John, Starlight and Starlight Ways. The two latter boats landed fish for Monday’s market.

The Montrose-registered Vos Supporter also lay in for a time during the worst of the weather, changing crew and taking on supplies before returning to sea, bound for the Magnus oil field.

Fish landings were a good average with 1,646 boxes in total landed in the week to last Friday. The market was busy each day apart from Thursday, when there were no landings. Vessels using the market were the Fairway, Guardian Angell, Devotion, Fertile, Mizpah, Sharyn Louise, Valhalla and Venture. The highest single landing was made by the Mizpahwhich landed 385 boxes.

Mussel harvesting in the area amounted to around 21 tons in the week ending on Monday form three local producers.

The lay down area of the West Quay, or Muckle Yard as it is generally known, has become busy once again as it provides an ideal area for the onshore handling of salmon cages. Local salmon producer Scottish Sea Farms has engaged in a programme of cage alteration which will see over 40 cages towed to port, lifted out onto the quay, reduced in size, improved, repaired and then returned to site. This work is predicted to last until March with the first cage brought ashore at the beginning of this week.

Hatchery anniversary

Shortly before Christmas the marine hatchery of the NAFC Marine Centre celebrated a significant milestone, reaching the 10th anniversary of its creation as a centre for marine and aquacultural research. From the opening, the facility became a nationally and internationally significant research centre for aquaculture in both an academic and commercial capacity and continues to enjoy that status today.

The hatchery in its current form was opened by Loretta Hutchison, then chair of the development committee, in December 1999 after a significant investment by the SIC and European Regional Development Fund. The original aspirations of the centre have endured substantial changes politically, commercially and academically in a decade that has seen these changes transform the aquaculture industry and elements of the fishing industry. The scale and flexibility of the hatchery have enabled it to remain at the forefront of research while industrial trends have led to a wide spectrum of species and techniques being pursued as viable for aquaculture.

Currently the centre is focused on developing a breeding program for wrasse to combat the lice problems that have plagued local salmon producers in recent years, but their history includes many other diverse research programs.

The general success of the centre can be attributed in part to the dedicated staff that work there and to the quality of the facility itself, but academically it has succeeded in training, educating or engaging people of all ages and all educational ranges from all over Europe and, in some instances, further afield. Training and educational support has been provided to students for France and Spain regularly, to local fish farming students, to BSc Honours projects, MSc Projects, PhD students and, perhaps equally importantly, to local schools through an outreach program that has strongly promoted a wider knowledge of the seas around Shetland to the younger generations.

One of the research and development projects that yielded significant results over the years was the lobster breeding program, which saw the release of vast numbers of juvenile lobsters into local waters, bolstering the commercial industry. Another was the cod breeding program, which succeeded in providing protocols for the rearing of cod for aquaculture in liaison with the NuFish hatchery at Broonies Taing which was, in its day, the most productive marine hatchery in the UK before the local cod aquaculture industry ultimately collapsed and led to its closure.

The centre also succeeded in rearing halibut and wolf fish and it is undoubtedly a measure of success that any of these programs succeeded given the extreme fragility of cold water marine species at their larval stages. Species such as these hatch as tiny organisms and would normally spend their larval stages in deep, cold dark water and grow very slowly. To achieve success in rearing them in captivity requires “intensive care” in no small measure. Other notable projects have focused on mussels, oysters, sea urchins, brown crab and on salmonid diets.

The centre currently sits under the wider umbrella of the NAFC Marine Centre’s marine science and technology department and this enables the staff to work along with their associates in the college’s science centre. There are six staff attributed to the section with the hatchery primarily run by scientist / technician / instructors Greg Arthur and Sathapppan (Saro) Saravanan, both of whom have been there since the hatchery was built, and aquaculture development manager Kenny Gifford. The flexible nature of the centre’s working practices means that other staff also regularly assist and the hatchery staff can reciprocate as necessary.

The current wrasse breeding program has been under way for several years and is endeavouring to replicate the successful use in Norwegian waters of wrasse species to combat lice in caged salmon production. Recent statistics reveal more than 1.5 million wrasse being deployed in the Norwegian industry with positive results that have been proven for nearly 10 years. However, differences in the biology between Norwegian and local waters mean that a breeding program is key to a sustainable means of addressing the lice problem here with this most environmentally conscious of methods. Though there have been some breeding successes in this field in Norway, their primary source of wrasse for cage use is from catchment programs. Numbers of ballan wrasse in local waters are such that this is not a desirable option on the scale required and the establishment of a breeding protocol would outweigh the import of fish for the purpose. Wrasse are active all winter and co-habit well in a cage setting, with artificial nooks provided for them to hide in. The subject of wrasse breeding is huge in itself for a species that came into the world as hermaphrodites and require subtle environmental conditions to even achieve a male-female starting point for breeding, but it is this kind of challenge that the centre’s staff, with their specialist knowledge, take a pride in developing.

Speaking of the work the hatchery has done over the years, Greg Arthur said: “We get a lot of satisfaction from success, like any kind of farming.” He drew attention to the hatchery’s vision statement: “Development of a cleaner, greener, wealthier and diversified aquaculture industry.” The hatchery, he said, is “a perfect miniature for production, with large stature in research. We are one of only a few facilities in the UK that are doing research with marine species and this work has far-reaching potential. The hatchery is outward looking both locally and internationally. The aquaculture industry is always changing and requires support from research and we see ourselves as having a significant role in that”.

The hatchery is funded through a complex variety of sources and is currently undertaking further diverse industrial research for commercial interests and looking forward this year to collaborative work with one of their partner institutes, the University of New Brunswick in Canada.

Mark Burgess