A fishing leader has welcomed Monday’s Scottish government announcement which means more mackerel for boats under 10 metres.
Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation’s chief executive Brian Isbister said the increased mackerel quota would come as “welcome news to the large fleet of vessels now involved in Shetland”.
These fishermen “regularly jig for this stock from the early summer through to late autumn period”, he said.
The government has announced help for inshore fishers that usually target shellfish, who will now be able diversify into new markets and access fishing opportunities worth up to £2 million.
The package, aimed at helping the industry during the coronavirus pandemic, means that Scottish vessels will be able to access additional fish quotas, according to the government.
This includes 800 tonnes of mackerel – 500 tonnes in the North Sea and 300 tonnes in the west coast and additional demersal quotas including haddock, anglerfish, whiting, pollack, saithe, ling, lemon sole and skates and rays for the North Sea and west of Scotland.
Creel fishermen have been hit hard by the crisis with the hospitality market they cater to disappearing following lockdowns in the UK and across Europe.
Mr Isbister said the organisation was aware of the announcement for the inshore sector meaning that from an industry perspective this was “not unexpected news”.
He also pointed out “without malice given the circumstances behind this announcement” that “the claim to be introducing ‘additional’ quota is actually somewhat misleading”.
Mr Isbister added: “As you might expect this quota opportunity, fish that is already in the system, would in normal circumstances have been allocated to the broader industry sector, and not just the inshore fleet.”
Aside from the increased mackerel quota for small boats, he said: “The rest of the quota on offer, most of which wouldn’t create a directed fishery on its own, at least not for very many vessels based in Shetland, is much less likely to make a difference.
“Shetland’s inshore fleet, while not catching shellfish, has developed two distinct and very successful hook and line fisheries for both cod and mackerel. There are only a relatively small number of the inshore fleet based in Shetland equipped with either trawl gear or have long-line gear that might be better suited to catch the other quota stocks on offer.”
Scottish fishing minister Fergus Ewing said: “Fishing in our inshore waters for shellfish is a longstanding and lucrative part of our wider fishing industry but the loss of markets practically overnight due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many businesses tying up their vessels.
“With continued uncertainty regarding future market access and demand, this additional £2 million of potential fishing opportunities will provide scope for some vessels to diversify, and help families and businesses in our coastal communities.
“It also has the potential to ensure that more people in the UK get to enjoy locally and sustainably caught fish from our waters and I hope retailers will play their part in making that happen.
“This support is in addition to the £22.5 million that has already been made available by the Scottish government to the seafood industry, and which was already the largest support package in the UK.”