Development and management of crab fisheries in Shetland, Scotland

Development and management of crab fisheries in Shetland, Scotland

I.R. Napier

Development and management of crab fisheries in Shetland, ScotlandThis is part of Crabs in Cold Water Regions: Biology, Management, and Economics
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Shetland is an island community forming the most northerly part of Scotland. From the late 1950s a commercial fishery for the edible crab (Cancer pagurus) developed rapidly in Shetland, fueled by new markets and by a transfer of fishing effort from more traditional fisheries. The 1970s saw a steady decline in crab landings due to a transfer of fishing effort back to demersal fisheries. The last two decades, however, have seen a fairly steady increase in crab landings, which reached almost 600 t in 1997. This new growth resulted primarily from an increase in the number of purpose-built crab-fishing vessels. Today almost 70% of the Shetland fishing fleet targets crabs and lobsters. Most of these vessels are under 10 m in length and most are operated by one man, often on a part-time basis. In the last decade crab catches have been supplemented by the previously unexploited velvet crab (Necora puber) and shore crab (Carcinus maenas).

The steady increase in crab catches and fishing effort during the 1980s and 1990s gave rise to considerable local concern about the sustainability of this fishery. In 1995, the local fishermen’s association and a number of other interested local organizations came together to seek legal powers to manage the local fisheries for crabs and other shellfish species. These powers were eventually granted by the Scottish Government in 2000,making Shetland the first community in Scotland granted powers to manage a local fishery. Initial management measures focus on controlling levels of fishing effort, and a scientific program is being established to provide managers with necessary information on the status of shellfish stocks.

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