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Marine / Small boat men unhappy about mackerel quota

SHETLAND Fishermen’s Association (SFA) will be having a meeting next year on mackerel allocations for under 10 metre boats after some fishermen raised concerns about the lack of quota.

One under 10m fisherman, Davy Porter, contacted Shetland News saying the fishery had been terminated prematurely once quota was up, even though the Shetland boats had benefitted from extra uncaught quota form North East Scotland.

Porter, a member of SFA, said that a free fishery, when under 10m boats could catch what they wanted and when they wanted, would be ideal.

Failing that, a 500 tonne quota for the 30 odd Shetland under 10m boats would be a “good starting point, according to the general consensus”.

Porter added: “Any help with upping the quota would be excellent as it forms a huge chunk of our income.

“Our quota is really nothing in the grand scheme of resources available.

“All the guys I know, who work on the large pelagic boats think its ridiculous for the under 10m fleet to be on any quota and that rings true when you hear of the big boats taking five times Shetland’s entire under 10m quota in one haul.”

Big shoals of mackerel were still around when the fishery ended. Photo: Davy Porter

According to Porter, Shetland’s quota for under 10 metre boats this year had been a “measly” 270 tonnes that was upped to around 410 tonnes owing to a lack of catching in the Moray Firth.

Despite the boost, “every tail was caught” and the fishery was closed by 5 October.

Porter also said that a desire for increased quota or other beneficial changes to allocations was unanimous in the under 10m sector.

Shetland Fish Producers Organisation chief executive Brian Isbister, who is not responsible for administering the under 10m quota – that is done directly by the Scottish Government, said that the (Scottish) under 10m fishery had been halted at 869.7 tonnes landed, which was 97.7 per cent of the quota with some fish still coming through the system unaccounted for.

Isbister added that the system, which issues a fortnightly catch for all vessels in the fleet, could work against the Shetland boats as the fish came near to Shetland at the tail end of the season, when much of the quota could already be used up.

He said: “This year the Shetland boats have been fairly successful in catching their quota, with quotas being reallocated. Obviously it would have been better if they’d carried on longer, but in relation to other years, it’s been good.”

He added that in more general terms it was still hoped Brexit would prove a windfall for fishing, and there would be more quota to go all round.

Despite valid concerns about the way mackerel quota was allocated, said SFA executive officer Simon Collins, the system tended to favour Shetland boats, as in this year when uncaught fish had been transferred north.

Collins said that the SFA could not start lobbying until the views of its under 10m members had been ascertained, to which end a meeting would be organised as soon as possible in the New Year.

The Scottish under 10m fleet receives around one-thousandth of the entire North East Atlantic mackerel total allowable catch annually.