Accreditation scheme could mean improved prices for inshore shellfish catches

Shetland shellfish fishermen are set to gain higher prices for their catch when Scotland’s only locally managed inshore fishery gains entry to a prestigious environmental scheme.

The Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation is close to securing Marine Stewardship Council accreditation for sustainable fisheries it controls within six miles of the coast, which include crabs, lobster, scallops, queens and whelks.

In most areas of the UK stocks, particularly scallops, are seriously overfished but the SSMO has successfully managed fishing effort around Shetland over the past 10 years by limiting the number of fishermen, imposing catch rules and helping rebuild stocks through enhancement programmes.

Councillor and board member Frank Robertson said it had been a long haul meeting the MSC’s requirements but Shetland was now poised to become the first area in Britain to gain accreditation for inshore fisheries. He was confident it would mean local shellfish selling “at an absolute premium” in future.

It is hoped the accolade, due to be awarded in June, will open up new lucrative niche markets for the top quality sustainable shellfish catch landed by the 94 licensed fishermen.

The amount landed in Shetland reached 2,178 tonnes in 2009, valued at over £5.5 million.

The council’s development committee agreed on Thursday not to cut its annual grant by 15 per cent due to the spending squeeze but to freeze it at nearly £44,000 for another year.

Council convener Sandy Cluness said local shellfish management had proved a remarkably successful scheme and the outlay was “a fairly modest sum for what it is achieving”.

The funding pays for an executive officer and management costs. Member fishermen pay £250 a year for their licence.

North Isles councillor Robert Henderson suggested one area that needed to be improved in Shetland was the husbandry of lobsters, which are kept tied up in cages near the shore, often for many weeks, awaiting lucrative markets like Christmas. They lose weight and condition during what some see as a cruel practice.

He said shore-based storage was needed where the lobsters could continue to be fed and kept top quality.

Council vice-convener Josie Simpson reminded the committee that Shetland did have a lobster ranch nearly 50 years ago, started up by salmon farming pioneer Gibby Johnson in Vidlin.


Add Your Comment

Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.