SFA member vessels can be broken down into three broad categories, corresponding to the main Shetland fisheries.
The pelagic fleet comprises some of Scotland’s largest and most modern fishing vessels. Pelagic fish are shoaling, migratory species such as mackerel, herring and blue whiting; they live near the surface of the sea or in mid-water, and taken together account for the most valuable portion of Shetland’s annual catch. In 2019, the most recent year for which figures are available, Shetland vessels landed over 69,000 tonnes of pelagic fish, worth some £64 million.
The whitefish fleet catches demersal (‘white’) fish, which live on or close to the bottom of the sea. These species include cod, haddock, whiting, monkfish and flatfish. The waters around Shetland contain an unusually wide range of demersal fish, with at least 55 different species caught by local vessels over the past decade. Whitefish landings (including shellfish caught by these vessels) totalled almost 25,000 tonnes in 2019, with a value of £52 million.
The inshore fleet is composed largely of small, single-handed boats that focus on shellfish such as lobsters, crabs and scallops. Shellfish landings amounted to almost 2,100 tonnes in 2019, with a value of £6 million. Shetland waters within the 6-mile limit are regulated by the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO). The SFA is represented on the SSMO’s board of directors.