The whitefish industry enjoyed some pre-Christmas good cheer with the news that 2016 has been a bumper year for landings.
More boxes were landed this year than at any other time in almost three decades – with 357,101 boxes passing through the markets.
The additional landings are being put down to abundant stocks and the introduction of the discard ban for selected whitefish species. The number of fish being coming into Shetland has not been at that level since 1987 when 390,000 boxes were traded through the market.
Martin Leyland of Shetland Seafood Auctions said: “It has been an extremely busy year, with a large volume of high-quality fish and good prices, so the value figures will be up too.
“The electronic auction system has resulted in steady growth in landings since it was introduced in 2003, and now that boats and buyers alike are familiar and comfortable with it. We are well placed to support the industry, especially as we look forward to the construction of the new market at Mair’s Quay and the proposed refurbishment of the Scalloway fish market.”
Over 300,000 boxes have now been landed in Lerwick and Scalloway in each of the last four years (prior to this year the figures were: 2013 – 303,233; 2014 – 306,837; 2015 – 307,870).
Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Brian Isbister said: “I can’t remember a time during my career when stocks have been so healthy and quotas have more or less reflected the stocks.
“Confidence is high in the industry and as we have seen again this year that’s leading to investment in the future by crews, whether in new or improved boats or in training.
“It’s vital that this confidence is maintained to sustain the communities around Shetland that are dependent on fishing and the islands’ economy in general.”
The industry is united about the way forward, according to Shetland Fishermen’s Association chiefSimon Collins. He insisted the interests of fishermen should not be traded away as part of the Brexit negotiations.
“More than anyone else, fishermen themselves have worked hard to turn their industry into the sustainable entity it is today.
“That needs to be recognised as we dispense with unworkable international management and build a sensible, practical system for the future.”