SHETLAND’S white fish market has smashed all records for landings this year by a huge 13 per cent after recording its 300,000th box on Friday.
Fishing boats have been consistently laying down almost 6,000 boxes a week on quaysides in Lerwick and Scalloway throughout 2013.
Local fishermen say the quantity and quality of fish such as cod and haddock around the islands are as good as they can ever remember.
Friday’s landing of 2,523 boxes brought this week’s total to 9,380, the highest of the year and brought the annual figure to 300,736, with three days to go before the markets close for Christmas on 18 December.
The previous record since an electronic auction system was introduced in Shetland in 2003 was 263,729 boxes in 2008.
Shetland is now the second biggest white fish landings port in the UK after Peterhead and its share of Scottish and UK landings has doubled in the last two decades.
Martin Leyland, of Shetland Seafood Auctions, said: “It has been an incredible year for fish landings in Shetland.
“Crucially, prices through the electronic auction have remained high because the quality of fish is excellent.
“The landings are testament to the quantity of fish out there – to put it in perspective last year weekly landings were just above 5,000 boxes a week.”
Shetland Fishermen’s Association chairman Leslie Tait said it was ironic that he would be travelling to Brussels next week for the annual round of EU quota setting – with most species set for cuts – against a background of record landings in Shetland.
“As ever the bureaucrats and politicians are working to a system that does not reflect the reality on the grounds,” he said.
“How we can be discussing further cuts in cod and haddock quotas when there are so much of these fish in our waters is beyond me.”
Richie Simpson of boat agents LHD added: “There is as much fish around as I have ever seen in 40 years in the industry.
“It would be so much better if some of the nonsense that surrounds the industry at European and government level could be taken out.
“A lot of the boats are ageing and a loosening of the rules would allow the men to re-invest which would be good for everybody.
“The prices are good, the market is there, we just need to see a lot more common sense around. The industry could be in very good health without doing damage to any stocks.”
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation is warning that the mechanism for further cuts in fishing effort is still in place.
Chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “It is essential that the Scottish and UK negotiating teams fight hard to ensure that the spectre of these cuts do not materialise.
“Stocks are recovering in spite of the dysfunctional cod plan, and if there are any further cuts in days, then there quite simply won’t be a fleet left to sustainably harvest this increased abundance of fish.”
No decision will be made until after the New Year on the main species shared with Norway, such as North Sea cod, haddock, whiting and mackerel, due to the failure to reach an agreement over mackerel with Faroe and Iceland.
As to other species, there are proposals to increase the total allowable catch for northern hake and megrim.
However cuts are proposed for west of Scotland haddock and whiting, and west of Scotland and North Sea monkfish and prawns.
Armstrong added: “The common fisheries policy reform element of these negotiations is driven by the move towards the principle of ‘maximum sustainable yield’ and the impending discards ban that is just around the corner.
“This translates into above average reductions in fishing opportunity and it will be essential that the management measures imposed to meet these aims are not self-defeating in that they end up actually increasing discard levels in our mixed fisheries.”
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