so much to sea



One of the Shetland seafood industry’s main strengths is the close working relationship between its fishermen and scientists which ensures the seas around Shetland are protected and sustainable for future generations.

Direct collaboration between industry stakeholders and the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway means that applied research projects are initiated to address real issues faced by our coastal communities.

Some recent research projects include:

Scallop Closed Areas – Science and industry have worked in partnership to effectively manage the sustainability of our local scallop fishery. Scallop fishermen voluntarily agree to close areas of the seabed where records show there may be fragile species or habitats.

Annual Shellfish Stock Assessment – The NAFC Marine Centre monitors and evaluates the condition of Shetland's shellfish stock to help the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) make informed management decisions which helps ensure the long term sustainability of the fisheries.

Aquaculture – The NAFC Marine Centre and local companies are working together to find a solution to the predatory nature of sealice in salmon. A current project is investigating the potential of rearing cleaner fish, such as lumpsuckers, which are known to remove sealice from salmon.

Vessel Monitoring Analysis (VMS) – Scallop vessels in Shetland are participating in a pilot project using VMS units to gather data on their fishing activity. This data is very valuable in terms of marine spatial planning, monitoring restricted and closed areas, and improving the stock assessment process.

Velvet Crab Escape Gaps – Escape gaps are being introduced in brown crab creels to allow velvet crabs to escape as a means of stock conservation. It is part of the SSMO’s creel limitation policy whereby all fishermen are limited to 600 creels, 240 of which can be used to fish for velvet crabs.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

In 2012 Shetland achieved a world first for its three main inshore shellfish fisheries, achieving full MSC certification for brown crab, velvet crab and dredged king scallops.

Close links between fishermen and scientists at the NAFC Marine Centre has generated 12 years of valuable scientific and fisheries data, which is used to manage the fishery, giving the industry the competitiive edge when undergoing the MSC assessment process.

This is a significant development for the shellfish industry which is currently worth around £7 million to the Shetland economy.

What does MSC accreditation actually mean?

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is all about setting global standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability. Assessed by a team of independent auditors the label demands that:

  • Fishing activity must be a sustainable level
  • Minimised environmental impact
  • Effectively managed fisheries

The MSC label guarantees a link with the specific fishery and is proof that it is from a sustainable, well-managed source.


Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO)

Leading the way in fisheries management

The Shetland shellfish industry is an integral and growing part of the Shetland economy and is leading the way in shellfish management. Key to its success has been its capacity to regulate its own inshore shellfish fisheries out to a six-mile limit. This has been achieved through the work of the SSMO, which was established in 1999 to ensure the long-term sustainability of the shellfish fisheries. This regulation for shellfish is unique to Scotland and allows the local community to take a real stakehold in the management of its marine resources.


• To sustain and grow Shetland’s shellfish fishery
• Maintain stock health through effective management
• Encourages environmental sustainability

The SSMO’s close relationship with NAFC Marine Centre, means that there is a strong scientific base from which to manage stocks. This, combined with the pro-active approach to self-regulation by the shellfish fishermen, has led to some remarkable and positive developments in managing and sustaining this important fishery.


Scottish Industry Partnership Scheme (SISP) Projects

Whiting Project - This project investigated the differences between scientific and industry perceptions of whiting stock in the northern North Sea.

Ling Project - In the absence of continuous data collection or any research programme, ling quotas were cut at the same time as fishermen reported increases in catches. The subsequent data
collections and reviews informed fisheries negotiations in 2011.

Marine protection areas - (MPAs) are areas of the sea which may be identified as important for marine wildlife, habitats, cultural heritage, or for fisheries purposes.

Reports from these and other projects can be found at and at