Fishermen say the quantity of stocks around the islands is as good as they can remember – as landings at white fish markets have reached a record 300,000 boxes this year.
The figure was recorded yesterday – smashing the previous record by 13 per cent but the fleet still faces the prospect of quota cuts if Brussels bureaucrats set limits next week which do not “reflect the reality on the grounds”.
Boats have consistently been putting down almost 6,000 boxes a week on the quaysides in Lerwick and Scalloway this year.
And local fishermen say the quality and quantity of fish such as cod and haddock around the islands is as good as they can remember.
Shetland is now the second biggest white fish landings port in the UK behind Peterhead and its share of Scottish and UK landings has doubled in the last 20 years.
Martin Leyland of Shetland Seafood Auctions, said: “It has been an incredible year for fish landings in Shetland.
“Crucially, prices through the electronic auction have remained high because the quality of fish is excellent.
“The landings are a testament to the quality of fish out there – to put it in perspective last year weekly landings were just above 5,000 boxes a week.”
Yesterday’s landing of 2,523 boxes brought the week’s landings to 9,380, the highest of the year, and the year’s to 300,736, with three days to go before the markets close for Christmas on 18th December.
The previous record since an electronic auction system was introduced in 2003 was 263,729 in 2008.
Leslie Tait, chairman of Shetland Fishermen’s Association, said it was ironic that he would be travelling to Brussels next week for the annual round of EU quota setting with most species set for cuts against a background of record landings in Shetland.
“As ever the bureaucrats and politicians are working to a system that does not reflect the reality on the grounds,” he said.
“How we can be discussing further cuts in cod and haddock quotas when there are so much of these fish in our waters is beyond me.”
Richie Simpson of boat agents LHD, said: “There is as much fish around as I have ever seen in 40 years in the industry.
“It would be so much better if some of the nonsense that surrounds the industry at European and government level could be taken out.
“A lot of the boats are ageing and a loosening of the rules would allow the men to re-invest which would be good for everybody.
“The prices are good, the market is there, we just need to see a lot more common sense around.
“The industry could be in very good health without doing damage to any stocks.”