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Marine / Freight service still ‘first priority’ for local seafood industry

Improving the freight service to the Scottish mainland should be one of the top priorities of the seafood strategy, according to Seafood Shetland. Photo: Shetland News

A NEW seafood strategy has been welcomed by the industry in Shetland – but an “adequate” ferry freight service remains a top priority.

The Scottish Government published the strategy last week, detailing how the fishing and aquaculture sectors are being supported to remain internationally competitive and attract skills and talent.

The government said the strategy also highlights ongoing work to monitor and manage the marine space, “so that consumers can have confidence in the sustainability of Scottish seafood”.

There is a concession, though, that the Scottish Government “does not have sufficient levers” to fully address some of the issues identified, especially around labour shortages and funding.

“We will continue to press the UK Government for an immigration system that meets Scotland’s distinct economic and demographic needs and to make adequate funding available for the Scottish seafood sector in a way that respects devolution and does not cause duplication and confusion,” the strategy said.

Newly released figures show that nearly 50,000 tonnes of fish were landed in Shetland in 2021, making it the second busiest area in Scotland for landings after Peterhead (151,598 tonnes).

The value of this amounted to around £70 million.

Meanwhile news emerged recently that the salmon farm sector adds around £137 million a year to Shetland’s economy.

Local sector body Seafood Shetland remains on the case for an improved ferry service between the isles and the Scottish mainland, which is vital for exporting fish.

It has long called for a more robust NorthLink service to Aberdeen, with freight capacity a key issue.

Responding to the publication of the strategy, Seafood Shetland chief executive Ruth Henderson said: “We very much appreciate any recognition of the value of the seafood industry by the Scottish Government.

“However, to accommodate existing demand and any potential growth, our first priority has to be establishing an adequate freight service, and that’s an area that the government and its transport agency refuse to recognise.

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“We look to [Scottish government secretary for rural affairs and the islands] Mairi Gougeon and her colleagues to advise how this particular hurdle may be overcome.”

Commenting as the strategy was launched, Gougeon said: “With increasing competition and pressure on our seas and coasts, it is important to recognise the value that our world-renowned seafood sector brings to the Scottish economy.

“In 2021, fish and seafood exports were valued at £1 billion, which is 60 per cent of total Scottish food exports.

“Today’s publication of the Strategy for Seafood marks our commitment to the sector, which employs almost 15,000 people across the country – primarily in our coastal and island communities.”

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