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SIC to continue providing funding for fisheries research

Photo: Shetland NewsThere are 180 million cod in the North Sea according to Shetland Fishermen's Association. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council is to continue providing £150,000 in potential match-funding for research projects in aquaculture and fisheries.

The council has offered the match-funding on a case-by-case basis over the last two years. During 2017/18 nearly £130,000 of the budget was used up by three research projects.

They covered areas like fish surveys, foodweb biodiversity and mussel larvae.

Aquaculture and fisheries research helps to support the local seafood industry, which is the largest individual economic sector in Shetland with an annual value in excess of £350m.

Lerwick councillor Peter Campbell questioned at Monday’s development committee meeting why less than £10,000 had been put forward by the fishing industry itself towards the research projects in the last financial year.

The council’s development director Neil Grant said most of the research projects are of “significant value to the industry”, adding that the council needed to understand better why those benefits are not reflected in the sector’s contribution.

Committee chairman Alastair Cooper said after the meeting that some of the industry research may only pay off in years to come.

“When you think a third to a half of the Shetland economy revolves around the seafood sector, be it aquaculture, fisheries, shell fisheries or whatever, the success and the ongoing dependence on these industries means that we have to look to our marine environment and to ensure that we have a sustainable fishery,” he said.

“Some of the work that’s done may not have a value today, but at some point in the future will have a value, and we may have to use data collected today to justify our position some point in the future. It’s difficult to put a price on it today, but at some point in the future it may be invaluable.”

The council’s development committee also agreed on Monday to provide just under £40,000 to the NAFC Marine Centre for the ongoing maintenance and development of the Shetland marine spatial plan.

It contains the policies and criteria against which planning applications and works licences submitted in the isles are considered.