Landings at Shetland’s white fish markets reached record levels for the second year in a row in 2014.
Abundant stocks of fish in the rich waters around the islands have enabled boats to land more than 5,000 boxes for 39 out of the 52 weeks this year.
Shetland is now the second biggest port in the UK for white fish landings after Peterhead and overall more fish is put down on the quaysides in Lerwick and Scalloway than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.
Today’s landings of more than 2,200 boxes brought the year’s total to more than 305,000 boxes – up on last year’s total of 303,233.
Landings last year smashed the previous record since the electronic auction system was introduced in Shetland in 2003 of 263,729, set in 2008.
Martin Leyland of Shetland Seafood Auctions said: “It has been another remarkable year for fish landings in Shetland.
“The quantity and quality of fish are high, helping to ensure prices through the electronic auction have remained very good.
“In one week in October, more than 10,000 boxes were landed which nobody could remember having happened in Shetland for a quarter of a century.”
The final total is likely to rise slightly as the last market of the year is on Friday 19th December. The first market of 2015 will, unusually, be on a Saturday – 3rd January.
Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Brian Isbister said he was delighted that boats had been able to consolidate last year’s record landings.
“Despite quota cuts in 2014 for a number of our important whitefish stocks, including haddock and whiting, landings have remained good across the year for all stocks,” he said.
“I’m particularly pleased to see improved catches of high value species such as megrim and monkfish.”
He added that the market had been buoyant, with improved prices for haddock in particular.
“Looking ahead, we have a major pier expansion in Lerwick which will eventually result in a new, modern market being built at Mair’s Quay. The good landings demonstrate the need for this and we look forward to working with Lerwick Port Authority to create a first-class facility.”
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said the record landings demonstrated what European Commission bureaucrats were only partially beginning to grasp – that stocks of haddock and cod in particular are sufficiently healthy to allow for substantial quota increases.
That would be a critical factor in determining the success of the discard ban, which will be introduced for these species in January 2016.
Mr Collins said: “The European Union managed to secure slight increases in haddock and cod quota for the North Sea during the recent EU-Norway talks which effectively set the amount of fish our men will be able to catch next year.
“But if the discard ban is going to work – and a great deal of progress is still required to make sure it does – the very least that needs to be done is significantly to raise these quotas further.
“If you take a walk through the fish markets in Lerwick or Scalloway in the morning you can see that the fish exude health and quality. These are better times for our fishermen – let’s not destroy that with unworkable regulations.”