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Shetland leads on sustainable fisheries

Fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead (left) invites NAFC Marine Centre's head of fisheries science Dr Martin Robinson to show him just how hard a crab can grip someone's finger. Pic. Billy Fox

SHETLAND is leading the way in sustainable fishing and has much to teach other parts of the country.

Those were the words of Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead as he began two days of meetings in the isles with fishermen, fish farmers, crofters and SNP candidates for the forthcoming council elections.

He used his first stop at Scalloway’s NAFC Marine Centre on Monday to announce a £150,000 award to carry out further research into sustainable stock management.

The cash comes on the back of the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation receiving the world’s first Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accreditation for king scallops, and the UK’s first for brown and velvet crabs.

The eco label took two years to achieve and involved close partnership working between the fisheries college scientists and the 121 shellfish licence holders, setting an example for fisheries management Europe-wide.

Mr Lochhead said: “This is a fantastic endorsement of the really good fisheries management measures taking place in Shetland and I want to spread that good practice across the rest of Scotland.

“It’s often quite difficult to get different interests around the same table but that’s happened here in Shetland, it’s a really good news story and means this top quality product will be there for future generations.

“We are investing £150,000 to spread that best practice to continue to develop that kind of collaboration between scientists and fishermen and fisheries managers because that’s certainly the way forward.”

Ironically the cash award was announced on the same day that the MSC revealed they would be removing their eco label from all European mackerel – Scotland’s most valuable fishery – due to the massive increase in quotas by Iceland and Faroe over the past two years.

Head of fisheries science at the NAFC, Dr Martin Robinson, said that many lessons had been learned on the way to gaining MSC accreditation for the shellfish and they were happy to share that with the country as a whole.

Jennifer Mouat of the Shetland Shellfish Management Organiation said she looked forward to more successes working alongside Dr Robinson and his team.

“The MSC process has been a long, complex and sometimes difficult process but the NAFC Marine Centre has remained fully committed during the entire process.

Jennifer Mouat of the SSMO, Richard Lochhead and Martin Robinson show off the MSC certificates for king scallops, brown and velvet crabs. Pic. Billy Fox

“Their ability to work with industry in a way that removes rather than builds barriers has been an important part of this national success story, and shows that applied and well communicated science can inform local management of resources in a very effective way.”

It has proved harder to get the various parties around the same table to agree a deal on mackerel that satisfies the Marine Stewardship Council.

Mr Lochhead said on Monday the only way to get Iceland and Faroe back to the negotiating table was to impose tough sanctions and he welcomed the commitment from the European Commission to go down that road.

“We have to let them know we are really serious about this,” he said.

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