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60 jobs lost as Whalsay Fish goes bust

A SHETLAND fish processing factory is to close its doors permanently with the loss of up to 60 jobs after the local authority called in administrators.

The demise of Whalsay Fish Processors was described as “a huge blow” to the island community of Whalsay, where many families depended on the work available at the plant.

The processing plant was mothballed early this summer after the company had been struggling for many months to source whole frozen salmon to keep the workforce busy.

The unusually harsh winter has been blamed for reduced salmon growth rates and a steep rise in raw material prices, which resulted in the small business being pushed out of the market.

Shetland Islands Council on Thursday decided to call in a £625,000 loan they had invested in June last year forcing the company into administration.

Of the loan, £85,000 has been paid back leaving a balance of £540,000, secured by the specialist processing equipment in the plant.

SIC development committee chairman and Whalsay councillor Josie Simpson described the situation as a “complete and utter disappointment”, but added that the local authority had no other choice to allow staff to get the £171,000 of redundancy pay they were due.

He said the department and management at the processor had worked very hard over recent months to find a way forward for the processing plant which had been part of the island’s economic fabric for the last four decades.

And he vowed that he would work “tirelessly” to find a new tenant for the factory building, which is owned by Shetland Leasing and Property (SLAP), a company wholly owned by the Shetland Charitable Trust.

Owner of Whalsay Fish Processors, local businessman Frank Johnson, was not available for comment on Thursday, but in a statement, a company spokeswoman said the company had been brought down by the unusually cold winter of 2009/10.

“The untypically harsh cold winter reduced biomass and salmon growth all across Europe. In response farmers in Norway reduced harvesting volumes by half for January February and March of this year. 

“Prices soared and salmon availability dropped. Whalsay Fish Processors, like so many other companies in the processing sector, has been adversely affected.

“This is really regrettable after all the positive effort by so many to see the business through to a new future. The cold winter is the single factor in derailing the business,” she said.