Shetland fishermen caution against development rush in Yell Sound

Fishermen’s leaders are urging Shetland Islands Council to acknowledge the importance of the Sullom Voe harbour area to inshore fishermen as they devise a plan for the area’s future use now that oil tanker movements have declined significantly.

Shetland Islands Council has launched a consultation exercise in the community on potential development within the harbour limits, which stretch from Brae in the south and well into Yell Sound in the north and east, prior to creating a ‘Master Plan.’

‘Our concern is that there seems to be an assumption that there is a blank canvas here,’ said Simon Collins, executive officer of Shetland Fishermen’s Association.

‘We have a mountain of evidence that this is not the case, that the area has been and continues to be hugely important for fishing of all types, from shellfish to white fish and even pelagic species. It also has high concentrations of juvenile fish, which are of course essential to healthy local stocks in the future,’ he said.

‘The SFA is concerned that the consultation reflects a rush to develop one of the few remaining unspoiled parts of Shetland’s coastal waters.’

He commented that this reflects a pattern seen over many years of the SIC effectively privatising large inshore areas and encouraging development for the benefit of overseas multinationals.

‘Formerly public resources have been given away, over-riding the interests of local users, and have thus become valuable private assets,’ Simon Collins said, adding that the results of a study of juvenile fish carried out by the NAFC Marine Centre last year highlighted record numbers of small cod, haddock and whiting in inshore areas.

The NAFC Marine Centre’s report can be found here.