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Job fears at Skerries salmon farm

FEARS for the future of one of Shetland’s smallest island communities have increased with the likely loss of their salmon business, which employs six people.

The salmon farm on Skerries has been working under contract to salmon giant Hjaltland Seafarms for the past two years, but this contract ends in May when the last fish will be harvested.

Approaches to the other two major salmon businesses in Shetland have not borne fruit so far.

Some islanders are hopeful that the salmon business, which has attracted overseas buyers for the quality of its fish, could yet be saved. However time is running out to find a new contract that will rescue the business.

Skerries Development Association chairman Ryan Arthur, who works for the salmon company, said he could not be absolutely certain it would close, but admitted that if it did residents may have to leave the isle.

“I really have no choice but to consider it if we can’t find or create jobs on the island. We all have mortgages to pay,” he told BBC Radio Shetland.

He said the best hope for the island lay in basing the ferry there, rather than neighbouring Whalsay.

“I think it would be one of the best things that has happened here for decades,” he said.

“It could create eight full time jobs, possibly more, give us a much better timetable and many other benefits could come along with it.”

Currently the SDA is carrying out a study with help from Highlands and Islands Enterprise looking at the future of the island’s ferry service.

Ferry operator Shetland Islands Council has been involved in talks with islanders on the issue and are keen to take the matter forward.

SIC environment and transport committee chairman Michael Stout said he welcomed the HIE study.

“We are very open to working with the community and finding a positive way forward for the island,” he said.

“I think that if we can find a way to have a ferry operated from and based in Skerries there are obvious advantages for us as a council as well as for the community.”

Such a move might help to heal some of the deep wounds created after the council voted to close the island’s secondary school last year and send its three pupils to Lerwick.