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Too much ling going overboard

LARGE quantities of ling are being discarded in waters off Shetland due to quota restrictions, according to a study carried out by Scalloway’s NAFC Marine Centre.

The species, a member of the cod family and of growing importance to the Shetland fleet, is mainly caught to the west and the north of the isles.

Dr Chevonne Angus has just completed a year-long study into the species to learn more of its biology, population dynamics and fishery.

She said very little was previously known of the fish, of which around 3,500 tonnes are landed in the UK, with 90 per cent caught off Scotland.

So far this week more than five tonnes of ling have been landed at Shetland’s fish markets, selling for between £1.55 and £1.83 per kilo.

In recent years quotas have been cut under the precautionary principle to the point where discarding is now commonplace, while anecdotal evidence suggests the stock may be increasing.

“The scientific knowledge base for ling was such that we were practically starting from scratch but this study has been an important first step in addressing the data deficiency,” Dr Angus said.

Her report, which is now available on the Marine Scotland website, was compiled from biological and catch data through observer trips on commercial vessels, market sampling and a tallybook scheme.

It stated: “Observer data that have been collected provide information on catch and discard rates and confirms that some vessels are discarding large quantities of ling due to quota restrictions.”

The report also shows that catches mainly consisted of ling measuring between 50 and 90 cm and aged from four to six years old, with male and female growth rates similar.

Dr Angus said: “The data and report have been passed to the ICES Working Group (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) responsible for the ling assessment so these should feed into the system next year.

“As always we would like to thank industry for their co-operation in completing questionnaires, tallybooks and hosting fisheries observers on their vessels.”

The research was funded by the Scottish government through the Scottish Industry Science Partnership 201110 programme.