Skippers Ian Shearer and Malcolm Reid and the crew of the latest addition to the Shetland fleet, the single-rig whitefish stern trawler Courageous LK 470, quickly started to prove the fishing credentials of their new vessel earlier this month, reports David Linkie. (Photos: Ivan Reid and Ian Shearer)
Fished southeast of Shetland, Courageous’ maiden four-day trip – the first of two quick-fire trips over the course of eight days – yielded 350 boxes of well-mixed whitefish.
In keeping with tradition, the first box landed by Courageous was raffled for charity after local buyers grouped together to donate £900. This generous total was immediately matched by the vessel owners, with the final total of £1,800 being shared equally between the Fishermen’s Mission and the RNLI.
The vessel’s second trip, of similar duration but fished east of Shetland, yielded a further 260 boxes.
The owners were fully satisfied with the performance of Courageous as they accustomed themselves to the working characteristics of the new vessel, which while built to replicate the fishing capabilities of the previous 29-year-old Courageous, incorporates totally different gear- and catch-handling arrangements.
The new vessel is a dedicated single-rig trawler, delivered by Vestværftet ApS of Hvide Sande, Denmark to Courageous Fishing (Whalsay) Ltd. The aft-bagging Courageous features a full-length trawl deck on which two sets of split sweepline winches are mounted right forward, and a highly automated fish-handling system, designed to give maximum catch quality and full traceability, on both the main deck and in the forward fishroom.
While waiting for storm-force northwesterly gales to fall away and the vessel’s fishing certificate to be issued, skipper Ian Shearer said: “It’s fair to say that as partners [Ian Shearer, Malcolm Reid, Christopher Irvine, James Johnson and LHD Ltd], we are delighted with the Courageous, on which the level of build quality, machinery installation and internal finish speak for themselves.
“In addition to Ove Kristensen, the Vestværftet team and other main subcontractors, many people have contributed to the result, of which we are extremely proud, and it is only right that the efforts of everyone involved in numerous different ways should be recognised immediately.
“When we signed for the boat, Brexit was a distant blur on the horizon, while the Covid-19 pandemic, and the impact it would have on the fishing industry and society, were still unheard of.
“As we prepare to start fishing, both are very real factors that we have no option other than to get on with. While more questions than answers remain on these issues, we are confident that in Courageous we have a fine boat that will stand us in good stead for the future.
“Given effective UK-based fisheries management in years to come, the potential to consolidate stock levels in Shetland waters – an invaluable natural resource on which the Shetland economy is heavily dependent – as well as further afield around the UK, is crystal clear to all those in the industry.
“Previously well-proven levels of consumer demand for prime-quality seafood will strengthen as Covid restrictions are gradually relaxed, although clearly major hurdles in relation to Brexit have still to be resolved – not least the recent build-up of effort by foreign vessels fishing static gear continuously in Shetland waters. Apart from taking our fish and impacting negatively on future stock levels, French and Spanish vessels working longlines and gill-nets are closing vast swathes of our traditional fishing grounds. That simply cannot be right.
“All fishing communities, of which Whalsay is just one example, need access to a suitable infrastructure, including modern vessels, in order to sustain their livelihood and that of future generations. Building any new boat is a long-term investment, and like many other partnerships, we are determined to play an active part in that future.”
Working through LHD Ltd, Courageous skippers Ian Shearer and Malcolm Reid, together with crewmen Christopher Irvine, James Johnson and Davy Shearer, expect to settle into a regular pattern of making three landings spread over 14 days. Fishing activities are expected to be focused on Shetland grounds for most of the year, augmented by a few seasonal trips to Rockall.
Landed in the distinctive yellow nest/stack boxes specifically injection-moulded by Craemer UK for LHD Ltd, Courageous’ fish will be sold electronically by Shetland Seafood Auctions using the new Auxcis KOSMOS cloud-based trading platform.