The troubled fish factory in Whalsay has been given four months to turn its dwindling fortunes round to help it bring out two new products which could help secure its long-term future.
Whalsay Fish Factory, known for producing frozen salmon mainly for the European market, was mothballed after salmon supplies effectively ran out following a very cold winter in northern Europe and outbreaks of infectious salmon anaemia (ISA).
However the company is pinning its hopes on new products based on raw material to bring it back to prosperity before the market for frozen salmon shows signs of recovery.
Whalsay Fish received a loan of £725,000 from the council’s economic development unit in July last year. Some repayments have been made to the council but the firm, owned by four fishing industry figures including Framgord’s Frank Johnson, still has over £500,000 outstanding.
Mr Johnson said the council loan was secured on the company’s assets, and no other lender was involved. He said the plant would begin operating again in September with a re-instated workforce.
Management have been in talks with the council over its difficulties for several months. Members of the SIC’s development committee met in private today to decide whether to give the company more time or close the deal and force it into liquidation.
Speaking after the meeting chairman and Whalsay councillor Josie Simpson said the firm had been given until October to come up with a positive plan for the future.
“As far as the Whalsay Fish Factory are concerned, we have given them breathing space of four months so he [Mr Johnson] can put his plans into operation,” said Mr Simpson.
“We’ve given him a window to keep the factory there and the workforce there. There is no new money involved.”
The company employs 60 people and has been a vital part of the island’s economy for the last 40 years.
● The number of visitors to this year’s Flavour of Shetland later this month will be limited to 1,500 in a bid to curb “significant levels of overcrowding” which blighted last year’s event.
A turnstile system will be used to keep tabs on visitor numbers and additional security staff will be deployed to control site numbers.
Cecil Smith said he had heard from people attending last year who described the event as “a drunken rammie”.