Fisherman James Anderson is the skipper of whitefish boat the Alison Kay. He spoke to the Shetland Times about what the situation means for him and his crew who, as a result of the new effort and net regulations, are facing an uncertain future.
“It’s threatening the whole future of the boat, definitely. I can’t get my head around, with the allocation that has been given to us … [how] we’ll manage with it.”
Mr Anderson and his crew of eight men fish throughout the year, taking a week off for paint and maintenance work and two weeks or so at Christmas.
Their days at sea allocation has been cut by almost a third, leaving the skipper with worries as to how they will catch enough fish to make a living.
“[It] equates to about two thirds of the year … It’s meant to be 15 per cent less than our track record for four years, but what we’ve been given seems much less than that. But we’ve not had time to check it over ourselves yet,” Mr Anderson said.
He continued: “We would need at least 50 days more than what they’ve given us. And even that would be difficult. If we’re going to manage the boat the same manner to what we’ve been doing then … We usually we have 300 days a year, and we only have 220.”
As the Alison Kay fishes predominantly for monkfish and megrim, the boat will also be affected by the new net regulations.
“We could go away and change the boat to get something that could manage under the days just now and it could all change again the following year. There’s no way you can plan it ahead.
“You should be looking at a five year business plan where you could sit and think, this is what we’ll do, but the way things are just now every year there’s something that comes out that’s completely new.”
The implications, Mr Anderson said, were that fishermen were left with few options and the possibility that either men will have off be laid off or boats will be scrapped altogether. All eight of the crew onboard the Alison Kay are also shareholders.
He said: “It’s just a grim situation. If there’s not going to be a lot of loss of jobs then somebody’s going to have to sit down and look at it again.
“I don’t know how we’ll get around this. I think if we tied the boat up 10 days a month we wouldn’t make our payments and we’d have to get rid of the boat.”
It is clear that fishermen like Mr Anderson have little faith in the ability of those planning their livelihoods.
“I would like to see them come back with a realistic figure of days that you could manage under. It’s a huge cut, just to come in with it with no warning. There’s no planning, no stability.
“It just knocks the stuffing out of you basically because you think if we fight this one then what’s it going to be next?”