Views from the Scord 23.01.09

Bittersweet success

The recent prosperity in the local fishing industry has come at a price for shellfish producer East Voe Shellfish.

The mussel farming business is being forced to relocate from the space it has occupied at the Scalloway fishmarket building for over three years to provide more room for greater whitefish landings.

Although entirely supportive of the requirements of the fishing fleet, Kenny Pottinger of East Voe Shellfish claims that notice from the SIC’s Scalloway Harbour has been short and there is nowhere else suitable and available for him to go at the current time.

He said: “I’m really blyde for the fishing but we only got told before Christmas that we had to be out by the end of January.

“We’ve not had enough time to sort out another premises.

The only one available is the No Catch factory and that’s too dear.”

Until recently the business used the two southernmost bays at the Scalloway market, primarily for storing their processing, packaging and handling equipment. But a change in requirements from Kenny’s buyer recently pushed him into shipping packaged mussels for the first time.

He envisages that he will now have to build a shed, which presents him with the further problem of securing the necessary land and consents before he can become fully operational again.

A building used to package mussels must comply with certain food hygiene regulations and as such mussel producers cannot do so from any substandard venue. Currently he will be able to continue to supply mussels in bulk form but will be unable to supply packaged mussels, which draw a premium of £200 per ton above bulk prices from the market.

The timing of the move comes right in the middle of the mussel-producing season, which runs from September to May, and Kenny fears that he may get more requests from his main buyer to supply packaged shellfish during the period which he will be unable to meet.

Scalloway Harbour has been able to offer him secure external storage space at the West Quay as a substitute but he does not consider it suitable for his requirements.

Barry Edwards of the SIC’s harbour department said: “If we didn’t need the market we wouldn’t have asked him to move. February has been one of the busiest months for fish landings over the past few years. We’ve offered him an alternative but he hasn’t come back to us.”

He also asserted that the council had given Mr Pottinger almost two months notice, with first communications to vacate the market being sent in early December.

Scalloway Harbour has shared in the substantial upsurge in whitefish landings in recent years through a combination of reasons, not least the electronic fish auction. The situation has already arisen whereby landings have filled the available space at the market and on occasion the boxes have had to be restacked to allow further fish to be landed.

The appearance of new boats to the area also means that the lack of space has become more likely to cause problems and the SIC is keen to avoid a situation in which vessels have to be turned away.

Advances in handling practices have also caused an increased requirement for space with, for example, all high-value fish being independently regraded to maximise its value at auction. This, along with the further incentive of high fuel prices and days-at-sea regulations, has encouraged boats normally based at Scottish mainland ports to land their catch to the local markets more often, increasing both efficiency and viability of the industry as a whole.

In the era when East Voe Shellfish was given the lease of the south end of the fishmarket it was a priority for the SIC to find uses for the space that was effectively dormant. Fortunes have changed quite dramatically for the whitefish industry and priorities along with it, resulting in the current reclamation of property.

Harbour activity

The Muckle Yard, or West Quay as it is labelled nowadays, has been a site of much activity in the week up to Friday as once more it plays host to the industrious fish farm Aqualine cage builders.

On this occasion the batch of cages being assembled are for Hjaltland, and the production line outpaced the workboat coming to tow the cages away, unusually resulting in a flotilla of cages occupying the waterfront for a time. On gaining momentum in their construction technique the assembly crew can average a rate of a cage per day.

The 2,263 gross tonne emergency tug vessel Anglian Sovereign was alongside on Tuesday for unspecified reasons before leaving for Orkney.

The Bergen-registered Hordafor called into Scalloway to receive a load of 317 tonnes of salmon waste silage, after the loading of which she remained in port awaiting a weather window to allow safe onward passage.

Prevailing bad weather throughout the week deterred the appearance of most fishing vessels at the Scalloway fishmarket, but nonetheless the week started with a substantial quantity of fish in the market received by truck.

That added to landings of 93 boxes from the Fertile and 67 boxes from the Quiet Waters on Friday to make a total of 1,035 boxes for the week to Friday.

The consigned boxes came from the Alison Kay, Defiant, Norwestarn, Ryanwood and Sunrise with the highest single landing coming from the Defiant with 293 boxes. The new seine-netter Valhalla finished rigging out and departed for the fishing grounds on Monday.

Earthquake veteran

While most of the village slept, Pauline Arculus of Braehead was wide awake and writing letters as the earthquake struck Shetland.

The night-owl pensioner was in no doubt that it was an earthquake she was experiencing when it happened, being a veteran of several similar such occurrences elsewhere in the world, including small tremors in Coventry where a fault line and large scale mining activity means the city has a track record of minor quakes, and Japan, where the earth is unstable to the highest degree.

Mrs Arculus described the earthquake as like “a huge explosion”, much louder than the blasting activity that Scalloway residents experience from the Scord Quarry, but noted that the ornaments on her shelves did not rattle or shift as they may be inclined to do if a heavy truck goes past.

She also distinguished the Shetland quake from the Coventry ones that were more like an express train going past.

Mrs Arculus does, however, believe that the paving slabs outside their home had settled by perhaps as much as two inches during the event, contrary to the common belief that there was little or no lasting evidence of the quake in this area. Her husband slept through the event, like many of us, blissfully unaware.

History group calendar

In the wake of successful sales of the 2009 calendar the Burra History Group is already planning next year’s edition.

The popular calendar features scenes, places and faces of days-gone-by in the local area. The organisers would be delighted to hear from anyone with suitable photographs they could provide for inclusion in the calendar during the near future as they hope to compile the content of the 2010 calendar during February and March with a view to having it printed in the summer.

If you have a picture you can contact Adalene Fullerton on (01595) 859623.

Fish and chips

The fish and chips night held in the Hamnavoe Public Hall did well in fund-raising once again.

The event sold a remarkable 116 fish suppers, 20 sausage suppers and 20 portions of chips during the evening, which raised a respectable £524 for the hall.

The games evening featured carpet bowls in substitution of the 500 planned and the organisers describe it as “all in all a very good night”. They would like to extend their thanks to Ralph Pottinger for generously donating all the fish and to all the helpers in the kitchen, without all of whom the night would not have been possible.

Mark Burgess


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