Records tumbled at Shetland’s whitefish market today as the highest yearly landings and most boxes in a single week in modern times were recorded.
Abundant North Sea stocks enabled boats to put down 307,870 boxes on quaysides in Lerwick and Scalloway in 2015.
That was thanks to bumper landings of 11,725 this week, the biggest five-day tally since the electronic auction was established in 2003.
It is the third year in a row that more than 300,000 boxes of whitefish have been landed in Shetland (in 2013 – 303,233; in 2014 – 306,837).
Prior to 2013 the last time more than 300,000 boxes were landed was in the late 1980s.
The figures cement Shetland’s place as the second biggest port in the UK for whitefish landings after Peterhead.
In all, more fish is landed in Shetland than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.
Martin Leyland of Shetland Seafood Auctions said: “It’s very pleasing to see these records being broken as we achieve the third successive year of strong landings in Shetland.
“I think it’s a reflection of the fact that buyers are seeing the quality of fish that they require on a weekly basis and skippers are getting good prices.
“Consistency is obviously important in any market and hopefully we will see a continuation of this positive trend.”
Brian Isbister, chief executive of the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation, said the figures showed a very encouraging consolidation of landings on the previous two years.
“After years of low to moderate landings, the industry is in a much better place now with the recovery of the main stocks,” he said.
“Confidence is returning to the whitefish fleet and skippers are investing in the future once again.”
Simon Collins, executive officer of Shetland Fishermen’s Association, said the significant quota increases approved by the EU for key white fish species at the December Fisheries Council earlier this week reflected the strength of stocks as confirmed by scientists.
“The scientists and the European Commission are slowly catching up with what our members are seeing every day on the grounds,” he said.
“It will be vital that the EU and the Scottish Government show sufficient flexibility as the discard ban is introduced from 1st January.
“Fishermen are nervous that all the good work they have been doing will be undermined by over-zealous regulators who are very distant from the tough practical realities of fishing.”
The last market of the year was held today and the first market of 2016 will be on Monday 4th January.