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Marine / Record whitefish landings as EU fish talks continue

436,000 boxes of whitefish landed at Lerwick, Scalloway and Cullivoe in 2018.

WITH record landings of white fish at both of Shetland’s fish markets this year, the industry is now looking anxiously to Brussels where next year’s quotas are being negotiated this week.

As the last fish market of the year was completed on Tuesday morning the grand total of demersal landings came to just over 436,000 boxes, an increase of over eight per cent on 2017’s figures, and twice as much as in 2007.

Expectations of further growth are high within the industry with two new fish markets in Lerwick and Scalloway being built while the political wrangling over Brexit continues.

Fishermen leaders are in Brussels this week for what is likely to be the UK’s last participation in the annual end of year fisheries council.

Politicians as well as the industry have warned of a potentially bad deal for the Scottish fleet with severe cuts in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of key species such as cod and haddock recommended.

Speaking from Brussels on Tuesday morning, Simon Collins of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFF) said one doesn’t need to be a Leaver to see that the horse-trading over fish quotas has to end.

“As we are concerned there is some very doubtful science informing some of the decision making,” he said.

“The UK has big beef with the European Commission over a deal that has already been struck over mackerel access, and the Scottish fisheries minister, we understand, is going to the commissioner in January specifically about this issue to find out why his negotiators have gone back on their word and have effectually rolled over Faroese access.”

While the proposed cuts to cod (33 per cent), haddock (31 per cent) and herring (36 per cent) quotas are making the headlines, the situation for the local fleet is far more complicated.

Collins said: “All this is not very helpful at a time when you have a landing obligation which is supposed to extent to all quota species from 1 January.

”It will be very difficult to make that work when at the same time you are cutting quota for species that are abundant locally.”

A settlement on next year’s TACs is expected in the early hours of Wednesday.