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Seafood has long played a significant role in shaping Shetland. Today, we minimise risk with state-of-the-art fishing vessels and equipment. By contrast, our forebears were more vulnerable, exposed to the same harsh weather conditions of today, but with only the most basic of boats and tackle. It was a hard and often dangerous life, which could lead to disaster, the results of which still impact on some of our communities today.

Dutch trade 1580-1700 The Dutch monopolised the North Sea fisheries, arriving every summer in Shetland to catch herring on their large decked boats called 'busses'. They used open drift nets and processed the fish onboard. This industry brought a valuable...
Local opportunity - fishing trade 1710-1790 In 1707, the Act of Union meant that German merchants could no longer afford to trade in Shetland, due to the introduction of high duties on imported salt. As the last...
Napoleonic War 1793-1815 The infamous Press Gangs were at large, rounding up young Shetland men with valuable nautical skills to go to war. Did you know? One mother in Fetlar, so afraid she would lose her sons to the Navy, helped them to escape by getting a boat ready...
Danger of the Haaf 1750s-1900s Through the 1900s, sixareens were made larger to reach new fishing grounds. This meant a greater danger to the crew. The haaf fishing was deep-sea fishing in small,...
Far Haaf: Fethaland haaf station 1750s-1900s Fish were landed at the haaf stations, where it was cured and dried by ‘beach boys’ - boys who were too young to go to sea - and older men. They split and...