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Marine / Half of fish in local waters landed by EU vessels, report claims

MORE than half of the fish and shellfish caught in Shetland waters is landed by EU fishing boats, while the local fleet gets less than one sixth, a new report by Dr Ian Napier of the NAFC Marine Centre UHI claims.

The stark figures highlight just how rich the islands’ waters are, with a third of all fish and shellfish landed from UK waters coming from what is termed ‘Shetland’s Exclusive Economic Zone’ (EEZ).

Drawing on official figures for an area of 127,000 kmaround Shetland, bounded by Faroese, Norwegian and the remainder of UK waters, Dr Napier calculated that local vessels land just 14 per cent of the fish and shellfish by weight and 21 per cent by value.

By contrast, EU boats land 56 per cent by weight and 38 per cent by value, with other UK vessels making up the remainder.

Simon Collins, executive officer of Shetland Fishermen’s Association, said: “We’ve long known that Shetland’s waters are teeming with fish and that under the Common Fisheries Policy EU vessels are permitted to plunder our traditional fishing grounds.

“What this report does is illustrate in detail just how bad the situation has become, and how severe the imbalance is.

“It serves as a reminder, if one were needed, to the UK’s Brexit negotiators that they must resist all attempts by the EU to maintain the status quo.

“The UK must have control of its own waters and have the power to determine who gets access to our stocks.

In all, 450,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish worth £370 million were landed from the ‘Shetland EEZ’ by UK and EU boats annually from 2016 to 2018.

On average, Shetland boats landed 120,000 tonnes worth £116 million – 63,000 tonnes and £77 million of which was caught in the ‘Shetland EEZ’.

Pelagic fish dominate catches – four fifths (79 per cent) by weight and more than half (58 per cent) by value, with demersal fish accounting for 18 per cent by weight and 38 per cent by value.

The ‘Shetland EEZ’ accounts for 17 per cent of the UK EEZ and just over a quarter (27 per cent) of the Scottish part of the UK EEZ.