Ferry contract must pay heed to booming fishing industry, says Collins
Fishermen are demanding the “huge growth” in landings are considered when the Scottish government looks to the new lifeline ferry service.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) said whitefish landings surpassed 300,000 boxes in 2013 and have grown steadily, with almost 14,000 tonnes worth £29 million sold through Shetland Seafood Auction in 2016. At the midway point this year, 8,000 tonnes worth £17.5 million had already been sold.
The association said this upward trend is likely to continue, with the UK set to exit the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
SFA executive officer Simon Collins said: “As Scottish government officials start to look towards the tender for the next Northern Isles ferry services contract, they need to reflect on the huge growth in fish landings and the fact that this will continue in the years ahead.
“Shetland is already the UK’s biggest fishing port after Peterhead, and most of our whitefish is exported to the mainland and beyond.”
Mr Collins said fishing was the isles’ biggest economic sector with crews continuing to invest in the industry. Stocks were “as healthy as they have been for decades”.
He added: “Ministers need to recognise the importance of providing plenty of capacity in this vital first link in the export chain.”
The looming EU departure Mr Collins said the UK would regain control of quotas with further growth in landings likely.
He added: “Under the CFP almost 60 per cent of the UK’s fish stocks are caught by boats from EU countries; when we resume control of our seas that will no longer be the case.
“While at this point we would obviously seek to reach access agreements with our fellow Coastal States, we would have first call on quota and would anticipate significant further growth in landings.”