Juvenile stocks survey promises strong future for Shetland fisheries

Juvenile stocks survey promises strong future for Shetland fisheries

An independent survey by the NAFC Marine Centre UHI indicates a promising future for Shetland fisheries, locating record numbers of small haddock and increases in small cod and whiting populations. More than fifty tows were carried out this summer by NAFC’s research vessel to assess abundance of key stocks.

The Centre has been surveying the abundances of fish species in the waters within 12 nautical miles of Shetland and in water depths ranging from 20 to 150 metres annually since 2011, using a set of small-mesh research gear to retain and sample juvenile fish.

The most notable result of the 2018 survey carried out by NAFC research vessel Atlantia II was the large numbers of small (9-18 cm, 2018 year-class) haddock that were present. Numbers were much higher than have been recorded previously in the eight years that the survey has been carried out.

‘This is good news, as there is the potential for a strong recruitment into the fishery over the next year or two, once the haddock have grown to a marketable size,’ said Dr Shaun Fraser, who coordinated the survey.

Populations of small cod and whiting were also higher than in 2017 and lemon sole showed an increase.

‘There are a number of benefits from the survey that the Centre has undertaken annually since 2011,’ he added.

‘Firstly, as we are sampling small fish which are not retained in commercial gear, we are getting an early indication of which stocks are doing well locally and likely to give increased catches in future years. Secondly, we are able to achieve the quick turnaround from surveying in August and September to reporting in November, which is important when results are significant.’

He commented that the survey contributes to the increasingly valuable time-series from 2011 which is showing interesting trends for a number of species.

‘These results are invaluable in providing an independent and scientifically credible picture of the abundance of fish in the waters around Shetland.’ said Simon Collins, executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association.

‘It is notable that the Centre’s findings of abundances of juvenile cod, haddock and whiting come at a time when we are seeing record landings of whitefish in Shetland, and we hope that they herald further increases in landings in the future.’

The full survey report is available here