Scottish inshore fishers who usually target shellfish have been given access to quota for alternative species worth up to £2 million.
Announcing the initiative yesterday, Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing said it would help them diversify into new activities following the collapse of their traditional market due to Covid-19.
Much of Scotland’s shellfish catch usually ends up on dinner tables in mainland Europe, but the coronavirus pandemic has shut off this valuable trade for the time being.
Shellfish fishers can now access an additional 800 tonnes of mackerel – 500t in the North Sea and 300t off the west coast.
They may also take advantage of extra quota for white-fish species including haddock, anglerfish, whiting, pollack, saithe, ling, lemon sole, and skates and rays.
Mr Ewing said: “Fishing in our inshore waters for shellfish is a longstanding and lucrative part of our wider fishing industry but the loss of markets practically overnight due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many businesses tying up their vessels.
“With continued uncertainty regarding future market access and demand, this additional £2m of potential fishing opportunities will provide scope for some vessels to diversify, and help families and businesses in our coastal communities.
“It also has the potential to ensure that more people in the UK get to enjoy locally and sustainably caught fish from our waters, and I hope retailers will play their part in making that happen.
“This support is in addition to the £22.5m that has already been made available by the Scottish Government to the seafood industry, and which was already the largest support package in the UK.”
The extra quota is available to fishing boats that are not members of a producer organisation and is not restricted by vessel length.
Access to all quotas will continue to be managed by catch limits, which will be adjusted on a regular basis and under a continuation of otherwise normal management arrangements.
Any unused quota will be allocated to producer organisations later this year.
Official figures show shellfish was the most valuable seafood sector in Scotland last year, thanks to landings worth £193m.