Shetland Fisherman's Association

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Shetland Fisherman's Association's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Shetland Fisherman's Association is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Simon Collins, executive officer
at sea
The Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) represents
the interests of Shetland’s diverse fishing fleet. Given
the importance of the fishing industry to Shetland’s
continuing existence as a viable community, it can be difficult to
distinguish between its priorities and those of the archipelago
as a whole. Simon Collins, executive officer, writes on the
challenges faced and overcome by an island dependent upon
the seafood industry, and recent improvements in fisheries
prompted by both ecological and political impetuses.
Nearly 200 miles closer to Oslo than to London, Shetland lies at the heart of the
UK’s healthiest and most productive fishing grounds. More fish are landed in the
archipelago than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined, and Shetland’s
170 or so primarily family-owned fishing boats account for a considerable portion
of the annual total.
In all, the local seafood industry generates over £350 million every year in income,
four times as much as oil, and is the equivalent of a third of Shetland’s economic
output. The industry directly employs around one-fifth of the islands’ workforce.
Based in Lerwick, the SFA’s elected chairman and two permanent staff share offices and
administrative back-up with the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation, a company with
statutory responsibilities for matters such as managing the fleet’s quotas and developing
markets for its catches. The SFA is funded through a levy of member vessels.
The SFA’s decision-making committees reflect the diversity of its membership, which
extends from single-crew five-metre boats predominantly targeting shellfish to highly
sophisticated 80-metre pelagic trawlers catching species such as mackerel and herring.
»Chairman: Leslie Tait MBE
»Executive officer:
»Policy officer: Sheila Keith
»Established in 1947
»Based in Lerwick, Shetland
»Represents the interests of
Shetland’s fishing fleet
»80 member vessels
»Sits on the executive committee
of the Scottish Fishermen’s
Shetland Fishermen’s
Highlighting best practice
A resurgent fishing industry
The contrast between the islands’
buoyant fishing industry today and
the situation 15 years ago couldn’t
be more stark. In the late 1990s and
early 2000s, and in common with
fishing communities all around the UK,
Shetland was suffering the full effects
of an unchecked expansion in the size
of EU fishing fleets operating in local
waters under “common access” rules.
Faced with collapsing fish stocks, the
EU promoted the decommissioning
of fishing vessels as an alternative to
wholesale bankruptcy. Together with
steep reductions in quotas, the result
was the end of the fishing industry
around much of the British coast.
It is a tribute to Shetland that it
managed to hold on through those
bleak times. Close cooperation
between the fishing industry and a
proactive Shetland Islands Council
ensured that fishing quotas were
retained in the islands. Moreover,
funding remained available to local
fishers and onshore entrepreneurs
prepared to buck the national trend.
It turned out to have been the right
thing to do. Sometimes despite,
rather than because of, the Common
Fisheries Policy (CFP), and following
numerous initiatives by Scottish vessels
to protect spawning and juvenile fish,
fish stocks have recovered dramatically
in recent years. Shetland’s fishing fleet
is in a prime position to take advantage
of this turnaround.
Take, for example, North Sea cod,
one of the UK fishing industry’s
iconic species. What scientists refer
to as “spawning stock biomass” has
increased four times over within a
decade, to a point where the cod
fishery is now recognised as being
harvested in a sustainable manner.
Similarly, North Sea plaice stocks have
increased fourfold since 2004, to the
highest levels since records began
in the 1950s, and hake stocks have
grown tenfold in ten years1.
Moving away from the EU
Until the EU referendum in 2016, the
SFA’s main purpose was lobbying the
European Commission and European
Parliament in an oft-dispiriting
attempt to ensure that directives
and regulations relating to fishing
made practical sense. Another of the
SFA’s functions was to dissuade the
Commission from giving away valuable
fishing opportunities to non-EU fleets,
particularly those of Faroe and Iceland.
In both areas, damage limitation was
the realistic limit of our ambitions.
It would be difficult to overstate the
impact that the referendum result had
on the SFA’s work. Almost overnight,
it switched its focus from Brussels to
London and Edinburgh, joining forces
with other fishing industry associations
under the Scottish Fishermen’s
Federation banner to launch a “Sea of
Opportunity” campaign. The campaign
has two main aims:
»Securing significant gains for the
UK seafood industry in the form of
much fairer shares of internationally
1 Source:
Trends in Scottish Fish Stocks
, NAFC Marine Centre, July 2017.
Midwater trawler
hunting mackerel
– a typical
Shetland creel boat
Fish stocks
have recovered
dramatically in
recent years.
fishing fleet is
in a prime
position to
take advantage
of this
agreed catch quotas. At present, UK
vessels account for just 42 per cent
of catches within what will become
the country’s Exclusive Economic
Zone (EEZ)2. By controlling access
to the EEZ, the UK government will
have the leverage required to right
that imbalance.
»Exploiting the potential for more
effective and reactive fisheries
management outside the CFP. In
Norway and Iceland, for example,
responsive regimes close to day-
to-day operations are delivering
business as well as environmental
The SFA also argues that Brexit offers
the freedom to explore new markets
for seafood in rapidly expanding
economies outside the EU, the ability
to direct grant funding in ways
more suited to our industry than
the EU currently allows and scope
for innovative thinking around fleet
diversification and development.
Like other business sectors, the
seafood industry favours frictionless,
tariff-free access to EU markets.
Shetland’s reliance on continental
buyers varies greatly by species, from
2 Source:
Fish Landings from the UK EEZ
and UK Landings from the EU EEZ in 2016
NAFC Marine Centre, October 2017.
virtually zero (as with mackerel) to
very high (as with certain whitefish
such as hake or megrim), but in
no case should market access be
secured in return for access to our
waters. That outcome would leave
the industry in a similar or even worse
position than it is under the CFP, and
has no precedent in EU deals with
other countries.
Closer to home, the SFA is working
closely with Shetland Islands Council
and Lerwick Port Authority in
revamping the fishing industry’s
onshore infrastructure, including
two new fish markets. It would be
bitterly ironic if Shetland and the
wider Scottish fishing industry proved
successful in obtaining increased
fishing opportunity but were physically
incapable of handling it.
In a remote archipelago like Shetland,
surrounded by fish but with few other
natural advantages, the community’s
continuing success as a place to
live and work will remain heavily
dependent on the seafood industry. In
furthering the interests of Shetland’s
fishing fleet, the SFA is acutely
conscious of its wider responsibilities
to the 23,000 people that call these
islands home.
In a remote
archipelago like
surrounded by
fish but with few
other natural
advantages, the
survival will
continue to
depend heavily
on the seafood
industry in
general and its
catching sector
in particular
Alison Kay
and crew,
crew and
family in harbour

This article was sponsored by Shetland Fisherman's Association. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister