Shetland Times Column 6th May

Last Friday was one of those all too rare glorious calm evenings, sea like a millpond, with a hint that summer was on the way. Standing outside what is still called the “fisheries college” in Scalloway I reflected that only a few weeks ago I was stood there during an apprenticeship visit on a bitterly cold and windy day. It was quite a contrast of weathers, something those who make their living from the sea know only too well.

I was at the college to hear a lecture from US fisheries scientist Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington on the future of food from the seas.

In a partnership event organised with Shetland Fishermen’s Association and UHI Shetland, Professor Hilborn took us through global fisheries data, and highlighted fisheries misinformation and its impact, something the SFA has been trying to counteract itself with papers on “fishy falsehoods”.

The question of sustainable and well-managed fisheries is of vital importance to the local fleet and Shetland as a whole, but some decisions taken at government level leave more questions than answers.

The proposed Highly Protected Marine Areas policy, agreed between the SNP/Green coalition and covering 10% of the seas around Scotland, needs to have the science behind it fully explained, but the threat that fisheries could be squeezed out is real and here now.

The growing demand for competing use of the seas includes new infrastructure for renewables, enabled by the £700 million sale of the seabed to windfarm companies. The seabed can only be sold once but, for reasons not yet apparent, the price was capped by the Scottish Government.

Congratulations to the councillors who have been elected for the new term of Shetland Islands Council. Putting yourself forward for election at any level of government is not an easy thing to do so I would like to express my thanks to all the council candidates who did just that. Obviously there are winners and losers but each individual deserves our thanks for participating in the democratic process.

At the time of writing the poll has not yet taken place and I hope that every voter uses their opportunity to take part in the democratic process too. It will be interesting to see if the increased use of postal votes effects local elections and any difference from the 2017 turnout figure of 49.1%.

I also want to put on record my thanks to the outgoing members of the council for their hard work and endeavours on behalf of the people of Shetland. Being a councillor is often a thankless task and, despite all the effort put in, there’s criticism because of what you have or haven’t done, real or imagined.  The job does offer great opportunity to improve the lives of others.

I wish the new council well and look forward to working together on the many issues that Shetland must deal with not just only over the course of the next five years but for the longer term.

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