Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) has commissioned a new study by UHI Shetland to shed light on the abundance of monkfish being reported by local fishermen.

Monkfish was the most valuable species landed by Shetland’s whitefish vessels in 2021, worth £6m to the islands – one-fifth of the fleet’s total income. Monk was also the most valuable single species landed by the Scottish whitefish fleet as a whole, worth more than £34m.

However, despite its economic importance, ICES has listed monkfish as a ‘data deficient’ stock for several years. This has led to a series of precautionary quota cuts in the absence of dependable stock assessments, with a 23% cut to monkfish quotas this year, and an overall cut of 55% since 2019.

The new study will examine catch rates of monkfish, using information recorded by Shetland vessels, with the aim of quantifying fishermen’s reports that monkfish has increased on local grounds this year.

SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson said that the fishing industry stands ready to help government scientists with data collection through partnership working.

“Having our nation’s most valuable whitefish catch, monkfish, listed as ‘data deficient’ isn’t good enough – and it’s fishing communities like Shetland that suffer the needless economic harm caused by the resulting mismatched precautionary cuts to quota.

“We hope that this study might be a starting point for meaningful discussions around the understanding of monkfish abundance, and the steps that can be taken to ensure a more comprehensive assessment of the stock in future years.

“Fishing crews have worked with officials recently to make improvements to our government’s scientific assessments of cod, another priority species for Shetland which has also seen drastic quota cuts in recent years. We’re looking for a win-win situation here: more trustworthy data for scientists, that leads to more realistic sustainable quotas for fishermen.”

This story was taken from the archives of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here


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