Mackerel fishery trial set to get underway in Western Isles

The opening of a new mackerel fishery for Western Isles boats is expected to progress later in the year, with one local vessel now about to start formal trials.

Earlier in the year the Scottish Government announced that a percentage of Scotland’s mackerel quota would be made available to vessels under 10 metres in length.

Currently the mackerel sector — along with other white-fish species — is the preserve of the large pelagic trawlers which operate out of the North Sea ports and Shetland.

However, tomorrow (Friday) formal discussions will take place on how to proceed with plans to secure some of the new quota for island boats. It amounts to 1,300 tonnes on an annual basis, worth a potential £1.2 million.

The trial is being taken forward by the Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Group and an update report will be presented to a meeting of the fisheries joint consultative committee of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar tomorrow (Friday).

In a report prepared for the committee, economic development officer Pete Middleton said: “Islander Shellfish, a local buyer in Stornoway, has indicated a good market for fresh whole, chilled, good-quality mackerel, with strong local demand existing.

“Marine Scotland’s consultation on an additional allocation of mackerel quota for inshore vessels may result in additional opportunities being available to inshore vessels and may provide an alternative seasonal opportunity for inshore vessels to diversify into mackerel fishing.”

He added: “A local skipper is piloting a project to identify cost-effective fishing methods, targeting fish of appropriate size and condition to meet market demands and appropriate care of catch to ensure highest quality which attracts a premium price. The project is expected to be completed by November 2014 and result in a prototype size gauge and audio visual instruction guide.”

The group have also targeted developments in regard to other species, notably cockles, razorfish and brown shrimp.