SHETLAND’S whitefish market had its biggest yearly landings in almost three decades in 2016, with 357,101 boxes set down and sold.
Abundant stocks and the introduction of the discard ban for selected whitefish species propelled landings to levels not seen since 1987, when 390,000 boxes were traded through the market.
In excess of 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).
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.”
Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation chief executive Brian Isbister: “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.”
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said the industry was united about the way forward and insisted that 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.”
Shetland is the second biggest port in the UK for whitefish landings after Peterhead. More fish is landed in the islands than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.