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Trawl survey yields plentiful small fish

Record numbers of small haddocks taken

FURTHER evidence of the strong prospects for fishing has emerged with the publication of a survey showing record numbers of small haddock around the isles.

The independent survey by the NAFC Marine Centre UHI in Scalloway also showed increases in small cod and whiting populations.

The centre has surveyed fish species within 12 nautical miles of Shetland and in depths ranging from 20 to 150 metres annually since 2011. A small-mesh net is used so that juvenile fish can be caught and sampled.

The stand out result of the latest survey was the large numbers of small haddock that were present – members of this year-class measuring from 9 – 18cm.

Dr Shaun Fraser. Photo: Shaun Fraser.

According to Dr Shaun Fraser, who coordinated the survey, numbers were much higher than have been recorded in the previous eight years and bode very well for inshore fish stocks.

Fraser said: “This is good news, as there is the potential for a strong recruitment into the fishery over the next year or two, once the haddock have grown to a marketable size.”

Populations of small cod and whiting were also higher than in 2017 and lemon sole showed an increase.

The results come from more than 50 tows in inshore waters by NAFC’s research vessel Atlantia II this summer to assess the abundance of juvenile fish from key commercial fish stocks.

Dr Fraser added: “There are a number of benefits from the survey that the Centre has undertaken annually since 2011.

“Firstly, as we are sampling small fish, which are not retained in commercial gear, we are getting an early indication of which stocks are doing well locally and likely to give increased catches in future years.

Some of the fish species taken in the survey. Photo: NAFC

“Secondly, we are able to achieve the quick turnaround from surveying in August and September to reporting in November, which is important when results are significant.

“Additionally, this survey contributes to the increasingly valuable time-series from 2011 which is showing interesting trends for a number of species.”

Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Simon Collins said: “These results are invaluable in providing an independent and scientifically credible picture of the abundance of fish in the waters around Shetland.

“It is notable that the centre’s findings of abundances of juvenile cod, haddock and whiting come at a time when we are seeing record landings of whitefish in Shetland, and we hope that they herald further increases in landings in the future.”