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Letters / Forgotten industries

Do the SIC and Scottish Government presently view the Scottish and Shetland fishing fleets and associated communities as expendable, in the same way as Edward Heath in the 70s, when he signed away our fishing grounds to the EEC?

At a time when Scottish fishing communities are still trying to come to terms with the regulations they face after the Westminster Government’s adoption of a Brexit deal agreement, that still allows the EU fleet to take the lion’s share of the fishery resources in UK waters.

The Scottish Government appear to be intent on heaping more pressure on the Scottish fishing communities, as they are presently auctioning off enormous areas of precious fishing grounds to wind farm developers and are creating massive Marine Protected Areas, that prohibits fishing activities.

This will concentrate the fishing effort in other areas, putting more pressure on the available fish stocks in what fishing grounds are left.

A 751 square kilometre area is proposed to be auctioned off for wind farm development, in the hypothetical Shetland Exclusive Economic Zone. This will create a no fishing zone, the loss of which might double in size, if EU owned vessels surround the area with the lines and tangle nets they have been using that have prevented UK owned fishing vessels, access to large swathes of Shetland’s traditional fishing grounds in recent years.

A NAFC report highlights the importance of the Shetland fishing grounds to the fishing industry.

The following quotes were copied from this report:

“It is estimated that an average of just under 450,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish, worth some £370 million, were landed from the ‘Shetland EEZ’ by UK and EU fishing boats annually from 2016 to 2018.

“That represented about one-third (by weight) of all the fish and shellfish landed from the UK EEZ by UK and EU fishing boats, or one-quarter by value.  

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“These figures suggest that the overall yield of fish and shellfish from the ‘Shetland EEZ’ (landings per unit area) was approximately double that from the rest of the UK.”  

These estimated figures do not include the landings by Norwegian and Faroese fishing vessels.

In one week in 2010, Norwegian fishing vessels sold over £50 million of mackerel on the Norwegian auction, all logged in from within 60 miles of the Shetland coastline, their fleet were still working in that area over a month later.

Will the fishermen be compensated for the loss of those fishing grounds?

Have the SIC given any consideration to the detrimental effect this will have on Shetland’s fishing industry before they backed the project?  I doubt it.

Fishing and aquaculture appear to be forgotten industries when decisions and dictates are made by the SIC executive committee, who appear to operate in ignorance of the fact that those industries still provide the largest annual input to the Shetland economy, as is shown in the following details copied from an economic report compiled by NAFC in Scalloway.  

“Shetland’s economy is dominated by maritime industries, and in particular by seafood industries: fish catching, aquaculture and seafood processing. Seafood industries contributed some £310 million to Shetland’s economy in 2010/11 (when the last detailed analysis of Shetland’s economy was carried out) – more than one-quarter of the total value of the local economy and more than half of the non- service sector.

“Other maritime sectors of the economy (ports & harbours, sea transport and marine engineering) contributed a further £53 million, bringing the total value of Shetland’s maritime economy to £363 million, one-third of the total, or two-thirds of the non- service sector.”  

“In contrast, the oil industry contributed just £71 million to the local economy (7 per cent of the total)”  

The plankton rich waters delivered by the Gulf Stream, annually provides a precious bounty around the Shetland shore, which is sustainably shared between the fishing industry and the multitude of various types of whales and wildlife that are seen feeding all around the Shetland coastline.

How much of what has sustained the Shetland economy for hundreds of years, came from the area that is proposed to be taken from the fishing industry and sold off to wind farm developers is not known, but there is no doubt that the area in question, is an important natural wildlife feeding area and is a part of some of the most prolific fishing grounds in Europe.

The marine environment and the communities that are sustained by it, should not be sacrificed in a claimed quest to save the environment? Or for financial gain to the government, there are more economic and environmentally friendly places to site wind farms onshore.

William Polson

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