Moves to ban velvet crab fishing for two months have left the Shetland Shellfish Managment Organisation (SSMO) backpedalling, with the board due to meet yesterday (Thursday) to reconsider the decision.
The review comes as one international buyer has warned of long-term effects for Shetland’s shellfish exports if the ban goes ahead. Emilio Rivera fears that without velvet crab landings throughout the summer his organisation, Imex International, would not be able to justify sending trucks to Shetland to purchase shellfish for export to mainland Europe.
He also warns that once the trucks leave for another UK fishmarket they are unlikely to return once the ban is lifted. Velvet crab brought around £350,000 to the Shetland economy in 2016, while the shellfish industry as a whole was worth over £5 million to the isles in the same period.
The decision, which had been taken to protect the species at “the times of year when they’re soft and moulting”, has met particularly stiff criticism from one creel fisherman, who has called for the board’s chairman and vice-chairman to “stand down”.
However, the board’s chairman has hit back at this demand and indicated a willingness to listen to feedback from fishermen and buyers.
• For full story see this week’s Shetland Times