WHITEFISH landings into Shetland are on a record high as the fish market’s electronic auction system celebrates its 10th birthday, this month.
Shetland Seafood Auctions said the number of boxes sold through the electronic market has smashed through the 200,000-barrier this week.
That is over 30,000 up on the same week in 2012 and more than 20,000 ahead of the equivalent stage of the best year until now, 2008.
Shetland is now the second most important port for whitefish in the UK, behind Peterhead.
The electronic market was introduced in 2003; at a time when there was a gloomy outlook for the future of the industry with boats going out of business and drastic quota cuts.
Ten years later, the two Shetland fish markets in Scalloway and Lerwick are attracting many northeast boats, taking advantage of its location in the middle of the fishing grounds.
A new fish market is planned to be built at the new Mair’s Quay in 2014.
This year, around 6,000 boxes of haddock, cod and monkfish are being landed on a weekly basis, 20 per cent more than in 2012.
“Fishermen are telling us there is an abundance of fish in the waters around Shetland and that’s reflected in record landings this year since we started the electronic auction back in 2003,” said Martin Leyland of Shetland Seafood Auctions.
“They have been helped in part by an increase in the quotas for some species. With the high cost of fuel and restrictions on days at sea, it makes sense for many non-Shetland boats to land here.”
He added: “The quality of fish is very good, and the prices have remained high. It is good for the Shetland economy and for the fishing industry.”
Brian Isbister, chief executive of Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation, said that both scientists who monitor fish stocks and boats on the grounds are recognising the higher levels of stocks, especially of cod.
“As an industry we need to counter the impression that the sea is all fished out, and these figures speak for themselves,” he said.
“But it’s not just our men who are reporting plentiful stocks – the scientists are doing so as well.
“We hope the message gets through to the bureaucrats and politicians who control the industry.”
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