Times Past

25 Years Ago

Shetland and Orkney fishermen are meeting today to discuss their next steps in a campaign to protect local fishing grounds.

This follows an hour-long meeting between Scottish Minister of State Lord Gray and Shetland fishing representatives on Tuesday where the two sides failed to reach an agreement.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association want pair trawling and white fish boats over 80ft banned from working within six miles of the shore. But the government has refused to introduce any restrictions around Shetland under new regulations now before Parliament.

At Tuesday’s meeting Lord Gray said that there was no scientific evidence to support Shetland’s case for restrictions around Shetland. If evidence is produced by either local fishermen or the council then this would be considered. Lord Gray said the new inshore fishing regulations should be given two or three years to see how they operated, and stressed that “the door is not closed” on applying restrictions around Shetland in the future. But, he added, a case still had to be made to justify the association’s proposals.

Lord Gray denied that political pressure in the north-east of Scotland – where the fishing industry would be hit particularly by the ban on pair trawling – had stopped the Government accepting the association’s demands. Shetland’s case had been considered on its merits alone.

50 Years Ago

Take a 90-year-old building with walls two feet thick; do it up, add a bit here and there; install modern plant; add more than just a dash of enthusiasm, plus a lot of sweat; burn more than the usual ration of midnight oil – and the end product can be a modern factory which can provide work for over thirty people.

These are the ingredients which have gone into Scalloway’s “new” industry of quickfreezing white fish. The successful mixture is now showing that a long cherished dream can become a reality.

The firm running the quickfreezing plant has assumed the imposing title of Iceatlantic (Frozen Seafoods), Ltd., and it has all come about as the result of an ambition by a Scalloway man, Mr Alex S Fraser, Lerwick, agent of the North of Scotland Shipping Co.

For many years he thought something of this kind would be of immeasurable benefit to the community and to the fishermen. Last year he interested others in the project, and today’s result is the white-painted Iceatlantic building, ideally situated on the shore at Blacksness, only a few feet away from the spot where the boats land their catches.

When the scheme was formulated, it was considered that it would be necessary to build a new factory; but the old building, which has always been associated with the fish trade in one form or another, was available at the right time, and it has made an almost ideal factory, with very little addition.

There is little doubt that the project could not have reached the productive stage it has in such a short time without the enthusiasm of its manager – Mr Tom Fraser, a son of Mr A.S. Fraser. A Merchant Navy engineering officer, Mr Fraser’s engineering experience has been invaluable in the crucial early stages.

100 Years Ago

Close of the Shetland Herring Fishing – Early Collapse – Whatever may yet be done by the local boats that still continue to follow the fortunes of “King Herring,” there are few connected with the industry but realise that there will be, at the utmost, only a small addition to the quantity of herring now landed, and so it may be taken that the Shetland fishing season for 1910 is now practically at a close, and the main features of the season’s operations must remain unchanged.

It seems strange to be writing a resumé of the Shetland herring fishing season in the latter days of August; and if anyone had suggested in the month of June, say, that the fishing would have collapsed on the 20th of August, that by the 27th of that month almost all the steamers would have left us, the large curing yards would have been cleared up and fishworkers despatched to their homes, such a prophet would have been regarded as one having no honour in his own country at all events. Yet that is exactly what has happened, and to-day, with the exception of our local boats, and a few local fishcurers who are still hanging on, Lerwick suggests an appearance of the first days of November, rather than the latter days of August.

But if there is anything that has undergone transformation within recent years, it has been the herring fishing industry. It is not so long ago since the actual fishing was entirely in the hands of sailboats, and the steamers were practically unknown. At that time the “management system” prevailed throughout, “early” and “late” seasons were specified by date long ere the fishing commenced, and boats had to fish at the various ports stipulated in their agreements with the fishcurers. Now, however, everything is different. So far as Lerwick is concerned it would seem as if the sailboats were being elbowed slowly and surely out of the race, and the whole fishing is to be carried on by fleets of steam drifters. And these vessels are not bound in any way. They realise that their chief aim is to catch herrings, and they steam from port to port wherever they are most likely to succeed. It is no uncommon thing for some steamers to be half-a-dozen times at the East Coast and back to Shetland within a season, even when the fishing is merely fluctuating here, and therefore it cannot be regarded as strange that, when the fishing suddenly takes off, the steamers should desert us and try other ports where they hope to meet with better luck.


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