The Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) has added its voice to calls from the wider UK industry for some form of temporary support from government to sustain fishing fleets through the current fuel crisis, thereby protecting national food security.

With landings last year of 50,000t, Shetland is a huge exporter of premium fish. Over one month on from the start of hostilities in Ukraine, governments elsewhere have been grappling with global supply chain concerns, with food and energy security foremost in consumers’ minds as prices begin to rocket.

“It’s almost a forgotten fact that fishing crews help to feed the nation,” said SFA chair James Anderson, skipper of the Alison Kay LK 57.

“War puts things in perspective, and every household and industry across the UK is feeling the strain of rapidly rising fuel bills, but our governments need to be aware that boats have been struggling – and that we can’t keep fishing for long in the current climate.

“Already in Shetland we’ve seen crews forced to consider tying up, taking wage cuts, or being let go altogether until vessels become viable again. That won’t happen soon without a show of support for our industry, as other countries have chosen to do.”

The current mismatch between low cod quota and abundant cod stocks around Shetland is compounding the fuel issue. With cod having to be avoided, crews are forced to fish less efficiently – so their boats use more fuel than would be necessary under more realistic quota levels.

In France, fishing fleets will be able to stay at sea thanks to a government-funded four-month subsidy of €0.35 per litre of fuel. The Spanish government has committed to lowering taxes at state ports and is offering low-interest loans to help keep fishing vessels viable. This allows their fleets to continue fishing, many of them in the waters around Shetland, while local boats face being tied up.

“While Shetland boats struggle on, they see governments elsewhere take action to help an industry that is clearly valued,” said SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson.

“The knock-on effects of Shetland’s fishing fleet being forced to tie up would be a hammer-blow to the economy of our islands, the wider supply chain, and the nation’s entire food supply – with more fish landed here every year than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.

“Ministers need to take notice, and action, now, to help our fishing fleet keep feeding the nation.”

This story was taken from the latest issue 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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