SHETLAND Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO), the organisation which manages the local inshore shellfish fishery, has passed its annual Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification audit for the brown crab and king scallop fisheries.
In 2012 both fisheries became the only such sector of the industry in Europe to gain MSC accreditation, an ecological endorsement that was almost lost when the Open Seas charity challenged the certification in 2017 saying scallop dredging was causing unacceptable damage to the marine environment.
Following a lengthy, and expensive, adjudication process the MSC eventually renewed the sustainable status of the isles scallop fishery.
The annual renewal of the certification is being carried out by independent assessors from the Marine Institute of Ireland and Heriot Watt University, and it is based on regular stock assessment and scientific advice from the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway.
SSMO inshore co-ordinator Carole Laignel said the organisation’s licensing policy was reviewed annually, like all of its other polices.
And, responding to criticism from a number of local fishermen who recently accused the organisation of being a closed shop which was only looking after themselves, Laignel added that allowing new entrants to the fishery was dependent on stock assessment advice.
“The directors also recently amended the licensing rules to allow new entrants in through the route of succession,” she said.
“This is a process whereby a fisherman who is retiring out of the industry can add someone onto their licence and once this person has been named on the licence for a set period of time they are able to take over the vessel and the SSMO licence.
“This has been very successful with 15 fishermen entering through this method in the last few years and another five en route to do so this year.
“The route of succession is a way whereby younger entrants can get into the fishery and which also allows existing vessels to remain in the local fleet.”
SSMO was granted the legal right to sustainably manage commercial shellfish fisheries out to the six nautical mile limit by the Shetland Islands Regulated Fishery (Scotland) Order 1999.
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