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Marine / Fisheries research funding to continue

SHETLAND Islands Council is to continue providing up to £150,000 of funding for fisheries and aquaculture research projects.

The council’s development committee agreed to continue offering the funding this financial year when members met on Tuesday morning.

The local authority has provided £150,000 from its economic development service budget to for research projects since 2016/17 in the hope it will attract match funding.

A report presented to members revealed that only one project was approved under the scheme in 2018/19, which was worth around £72,000.

That project continued the council’s support of NAFC Marine Centre’s fish survey, which was initiated in 2009 in response to industry reports of high numbers of juvenile cod.

In 2016/17 five projects received funding, while the following year three projects were approved.

Projects must demonstrate their ability to deliver economic development outcomes as well as bring in external funding where possible.

Business development team leader Thomas Coutts said in his report to councillors: “While the most likely beneficiary of a ring-fenced fisheries and aquaculture research budget is NAFC Marine Centre, it should also be recognised that other local bodies undertake research projects in these sectors.

“This funding should be made accessible to other local bodies, where projects can demonstrate a fit with economic development priorities.”

Lerwick councillor Peter Campbell said it was a “wee bit worrying” that external match-funding provided by the industry and other groups for projects had decreased from £81,316 to zero over the last few years.

Committee chairman Alastair Cooper said a lot of the research was “funnelled” though Marine Scotland, with the councillor suggesting more talks with the government body.

Council leader Steven Coutts added that he would like to see more details of the outcomes of the projects funded previously.

“My concern is actually about demonstrating best value,” he said.

The development committee also approved funding of over £47,000 which will go towards NAFC Marine Centre’s ongoing development and maintenance of the Shetland Islands marine spatial plan.

The plan is used as guidance for the Shetland local development plan when it comes to coastal development.