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Big prize on offer, fishermen tell government

The newly-lengthened Alison Kay at Scalloway in April.
The Lerwick registered whitefish trawler Alison Kay alongside Blacksness Pier in Scalloway. Photo: Shetland News

A MASSIVE prize is at stake in a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to draw up a new deal for Shetland’s fishermen during negotiations over the UK’s impending exit from the EU, according to the local industry’s figurehead.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) chief executive Simon Collins was among an industry delegation who met the UK government’s Scotland Office minister Andrew Dunlop on Monday.

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Collins said the talks had again been “very good” and positive on all sides, including both the UK and Scottish governments, as efforts continue to ensure the fishing industry is at the heart of the decision-making process.

“We are very conscious that sometimes governments don’t appreciate the value of what’s out there, and certainly not in our seas,” he told BBC Radio Shetland.

He said there was “huge value” in an industry that is already worth in excess of £500 million a year to Scotland.

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“The Norwegians, they have an industry worth probably ten times that, and our sea is not necessarily less productive,” Collins said. “So there’s a huge prize out there, and we’re just trying to point it out… to governments so they don’t overlook it and don’t give it away.”

He said fishing was a standout industry that had real reasons to want away from Brussels, and while “nobody expected this result”, there is now a determination to make the most of the opportunity presented.

“I think there’s a collective understanding that, of all the sectors in the economy, fisheries really had a good reason to vote leave. There’s a great deal of value, undeveloped real estate out there, up to 200 miles, [of] huge value not just for Shetland but for Scotland as a whole.”

Collins, who has been in the job for three and a half years, said he couldn’t overstate how frustrating negotiating with the EU was.

“It’s just a massive machine out there that we can’t change. If we had control of the rules, if something went wrong we could just change it. We’re certainly not asking for no management – just much better management.”

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