Jig Fishing Pilot Study in Shetland Coastal Waters

Paul Macdonald, Chevonne Laurenson, Susan Marrs

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    Jig fishing was last attempted commercially in Shetland in the early 1990s. Although the initiative was considered a success, the metier has not gained precedence over otter trawling. The recent difficulties encountered by the whitefish sector indicated that an evaluation of this approach should be revisited and, following a request from the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, the NAFC Marine Centre undertook a pilot study of jig fishing in the inshore waters around Shetland.
    In June 2005 six Oilwind jigging machines were fitted to the Centre’s fishing vessel Atlantia LK328 and in March 2006 they were installed on the Centre’s new vessel Atlantia II LK502. During the study a variety of commercially available gear was trialled and information on both catches and environmental conditions (e.g. wind and weather, seabed type, water depth, sea temperature and sea state) were recorded. Catch data included positions, fishing times and catch composition. Fishing trials were carried out over an 18 month period and covered as many areas around Shetland as possible. The highest catch rates were on wrecks to the north of Shetland. During the study, 119 days fishing produced 545 boxes of fish with a value of £29,000. The most valuable species in the catch was lythe (Pollachius pollachius) followed by saithe (Polachius virens), cod (Gadus morhua), ling (Molva molva) and tusk (Brosme brosme) respectively. Environmental variables such as wind speed, sea depth, seabed type and tide all had significant effects on catch rates.
    Market prices fluctuated during the study period and prices received for jig caught fish were rarely higher than those for trawl caught fish. The main running costs associated with jig fishing were fuel and gear although fuel consumption when jigging was significantly lower than while trawling.
    Factors needing to be taken into consideration when determining the commercial viability of jig fishing include: initial set up costs, weather restrictions, resistance of localised fishing grounds to intense fishing, quota availability, and marketing and promotion of the catch.
    The results of the study indicate that jig fishing could be commercially viable, at least on a seasonal basis. However to reach its full potential a co-operative approach may need to be considered so that issues such as constancy of supply, volume and niche marketing could be addressed in order to achieve higher prices.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherNAFC Marine Centre
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2007


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