A NEW study has found that Shetland’s seafood industry supports nearly a quarter of jobs in the islands, boasting a direct output worth £351 million and an overall impact of £584 million on the economy.
The study, conducted by Shetland Seafood Quality Control (SSQC), found that a total of 2,602 jobs – 22 per cent of all employment – were dependent on the seafood sector.
Funded by the Shetland Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG), Shetland Aquaculture Trust and Shetland Fishermen’s Association, the detailed study highlights how seafood remains the “largest and most influential sector in the Shetland economy”.
Of the £584 million, £157 million is attributed to fishing, £240.9 million to aquaculture and £186.2 million to fish processing.
SSQC general manager Alice Mathewson said: “Our findings demonstrate that seafood is – as it has been for centuries – the largest and most significant sector in the Shetland economy.
“Not only is the overall value considerable, its distribution across Shetland creates immeasurable benefits, protecting and sustaining our islands and rural areas.
“In particular, the North Isles (including Unst, Yell, Whalsay and Skerries) accounts for 33.2 per cent or £116.5 million of the overall industry value, with 335 jobs, representing one third of all jobs in the area or half of all full time employment.”
Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins welcomed the findings, saying that while those within the industry appreciate its value to the islands, it is “important that the wider community has a greater understanding of the industry and its economic significance”.
Collins pointed to a “particularly notable” increase in the value of fish caught, up some £35 million since 2010/11. “While this has a great deal to do with increases in mackerel quota, it also reflects well on the whitefish fleet and a remarkable improvement in the quality of the fish we land.”
SSQC chairman David Sandison said the study also highlighted the importance of aquaculture, which supports 120 jobs in the north mainland, 88 jobs in the north isles and 60 jobs in the central mainland.
“The Shetland mussel growing industry now represents some 77 per cent of the entire Scottish mussel industry, at a gross value of £7.084 million,” Sandison said.
“It continues to grow at a steady pace, mindful of its enviable reputation for quality, supporting some of Shetland’s most fragile rural areas.”
Sandison added that seafood processing, mostly pelagic and salmon, had seen a steady growth since 2010/11 and now supported 414 jobs within the islands.
“We cannot overstate the importance of the seafood sector to Shetland in both economic and social terms. It has shaped the islands, and will continue to do so long into the future. I hope that this study will go some way to helping people understand and appreciate that.”