Blow for Whalsay as Norpak fish factory closes with loss of 26 jobs

The Norpak fish factory in Whalsay has closed with the loss of 21 full-time and five part-time jobs.

The business was formed just under a year ago by brothers Angus and Ivor Johnson of Vidlin with former employee David Leask joining them as managing director.

Norpak lost three months of production when cages owned by its main supplier Meridian Salmon off Unst were blown away in a gale just before Christmas, but difficulties getting its produce out of Whalsay on the ferry and the lack of space in Symbister harbour for its own workboat to export fish have also been blamed for the company’s decision to cease trading.

Staff were told on Monday of the decision, which is a major blow to the island.

The Symbister factory was previously owned by Frank Johnson and three other leaders of the fishing industry as part as part of Aberdeen-based company SCAF, but closed in October 2010.

A combination of factors including a very cold winter and an outbreak of infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) left the company struggling to turn its business around, despite a loan of £725,000 from the SIC’s economic development unit in July 2010.


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  • Robert Birchall

    • May 14th, 2012 7:50

    I was amazed to hear Robert Henderson’s comments on radio Shetland on Monday evening regarding the closure of the Whalsay factory. His attitude, that he had been campaigning for fixed links to the isles for years is, in the face of the disaster that has befallen a number of his constituents, arrogant, short sighted, and a neglect of his duty to the people of Whalsay.
    Fixed links to the isles are an obvious answer to the problem of transport to the isles no doubt about that. But given the current economic climate they are, for the foreseeable future, a pipe dream. What needs to happen is that the present arrangements need to be defended and improved.
    Mr Henderson’s comments last Monday evening did nothing to address the immediate problem of the closure of the factory and the loss of vital jobs. He did shed some crocodile tears about the loss of these jobs, following this up with a statement about Norpak being a private company. As if the council had no business supporting communities (by providing adequate infrastructure) it is supposed to represent. One can not help but to wonder if Yell was as poorly served by ferries and piers as Whalsay is would Mr Henderson’s attitude be different?
    The harbour at Symbister has been extended and redeveloped at public expense to accommodate the Whalsay pelagic fleet, magnificent structures over which not one Kilo of fish has ever been landed. Which provides part time employment for a number of the inhabitants of Whalsay, Why then can the SIC not find the wherewithal to afford the same opportunities to other sectors of the islands economy
    Good for Ivor and Angus Johnson and David Leask for making an effort to support the community of Whalsay. It is most unfortunate that one of those elected to represent said community seems unable or unwilling to campaign effectively to provide the services needed to promote economic growth among people who for one reason or another may have no other employment opportunities. And lets face it when those people are gainfully employed will make a net contribution to the UK exchequer and the coffers of the SIC
    Any one in Whalsay who voted for Mr Henderson must be bitterly disappointed by his dereliction of duty, and his negligent attitude to their well being and the future of their community.

  • I. Anderson

    • May 14th, 2012 11:59

    I would like to add to this that I know perfectly well, if we had a tunnel, we could have a good working factory here and we could all come and go as we please and I would love that but as Mr Birchall says this is a pipe dream and if Yell, who relies on ferries like us, can run a good factory why can’t we get the ferries to enable us to do the same until the SIC procures the money needed for fixed links.
    I attended the SIC meeting last July when they agreed to go out and try for money for tunnels and Alan Wishart requested, at that meeting, that the money which the council had ready for new piers and ferries, could be ‘ring-fenced’ in case the ‘tunnel money’ was not found and the council agreed to this. What I want to know is, is this money still available or has it been spent on consultations and trips looking for money etc. Can the SIC not just get on with building us a new pier and give us a bigger ferry then we can get on and prosper instead of our inhabitants having to go off the island for work because if that happens no amount of tunnels will bring them back.

  • I. Anderson

    • May 16th, 2012 16:35

    Sorry I mistakenly called that last remark ‘last July’ when , in fact it was July 2010


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