By LOUISE THOMASON
Companies in Shetland are to benefit from almost half of the latest tranche of grants issued by the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), a sum that amounts to well over £1 million.
A total of £2.9 million is to be distributed between 39 companies across Scotland, and ministers said it the money would save 600 jobs in the seafood industry and create employment for another 55 people.
Among those to receive some of Shetland’s share of £1,307,869 is Blueshell Mussels, which is based in Brae. The company will receive £469,690 to help further develop an already successful enterprise, which was praised for the quality of its mussels by leading chef Jean Christophe Novelli when he visited Shetland last autumn.
The company’s Lindsay Laurenson said: “It’s good news – the money will go towards the continued expansion and to creating more efficiency within the company.”
Also awarded funding, of £64,385, was North Atlantic Shellfish. Managing director Michael Tait said the money would be used to upgrade the company’s equipment, including the holding, grading and washing equipment and the expansion of their ultra-violet sanitisation system.
Mr Tait said: “We’re really pleased to get help [with] improving our capabilities throughout the factory located in Walls. “[The money is] part of a three phase improvement scheme we’re planning over five years … and will hopefully help towards supplying the wholesale market.”
Walls mussel company Demlane received an award of £479,538. Operating under its parent company, Western Isles based Isle of Shuna, Demlane will put the money towards packing and freezing equipment.
Roderick Burgess, chairman of Isle of Shuna, said: “We are delighted at this award which will allow us to accelerate our strategy of creating a leading Scottish seafood company.
“A priority for investment is to increase the capabilities of our Shetland factory, where we manufacture value-added mussel products for leading UK supermarkets, building on the excellent quality and freshness of the mussels.”
Hjaltland Seafarms, the only salmon producer from Shetland on the list, will get £126,137 to put towards establishing a new organic farmed salmon site and cages, nets and a feed barge.
Two fishing vessels are to receive funds. Colin Hughson and Partners, Lerwick, own the white fish trawler Ocean Way and will receive £24,689.
Skipper Leslie Hughson said the money would be used to put in a new Scanmar net monitoring system and that he was “very pleased” they had received the funding.
Mr Hughson said: “We bought the boat in the first of last year but there was no satisfactory way to regulate the twin rigging system, so the equipment will help with that. We’ve been sitting scratching our heads wondering if everything has been working ok. It’s a good system; a few of the other boats here have it so we’re very pleased.”
The Whalsay white fish boat the Venturous will also receive funding, of £9,940.
Other companies awarded funding are Mussel Harvest Ltd, based in Burravoe, Yell, which is to receive £95,400 to modernise a workboat; C & A Thomason Ltd, which will receive £31,583 to install a washer, grader and restocker; and A & D Johnson, Hamnavoe, which will receive £6,507 for the installation of a flake ice machine and a Zanotti freezer unit to be installed on Eshaness pier.
The news was announced on Tuesday at the European Seafood Exposition. Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead was in Brussels at the meeting. He said: “Scottish seafood is a spectacular product harvested from a spectacular environment. No wonder it enjoys a world-beating reputation for quality and taste.
“I have been hugely impressed by what I have seen here today and am proud of the global success story which Scottish seafood represents. Fishing businesses, like all businesses, are having to use the economic downturn as an opportunity as well as addressing the challenges.
“We are continuing to do all we can to help the fishing and fish-farming industries grow at home and abroad – as our £2.9 million injection of European Fisheries Funding today shows – and to ensure they continue to offer consumers around the world unparalleled quality and taste.”
This is the second time this year that Shetland companies have benefited from EFF grants. In January, Lerwick Fish Traders, part of the Hjaltland group, and Greenock-based Rossyew Ltd received grants totalling £1,158,000 which led to the creation of 17 jobs in the isles.