One of the Shetland seafood industry’s main strengths is the close working relationship between its fishermen and scientists which ensures the seas around Shetland are protected and sustainable for future generations.

Direct collaboration between industry stakeholders and the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway means that applied research projects are initiated to address real issues faced by our coastal communities.

A range of collaborative fishing-related projects has been carried out including: trialing new equipment, tagging fish to learn more about their movements and growth, surveying the abundance of fish and shellfish, collecting fisheries data, mapping areas important to fishermen, assessing the carbon footprint of fishing, and species specific studies.

In aquaculture, collaborative projects with the NAFC Marine Centre include seaweed cultivation, sea lice bioassay, the use of cleaner fish, and mussel cultivation.

For full details of these – and other projects – visit


Scallop Closed Areas – Science and industry have worked in partnership to effectively manage the sustainability of our local scallop fishery. Scallop fishermen voluntarily agree to close areas of the seabed where records show there may be fragile species or habitats.

Annual Shellfish Stock Assessment – The NAFC Marine Centre monitors and evaluates the condition of Shetland’s shellfish stock to help the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) make informed management decisions which helps ensure the long term sustainability of the fisheries.

Aquaculture – The NAFC Marine Centre and local companies are working together to find a solution to the predatory nature of sealice in salmon. A current project is investigating the potential of rearing cleaner fish, such as lumpsuckers, which are known to remove sealice from salmon.

Vessel Monitoring Analysis (VMS) – Scallop vessels in Shetland are participating in a pilot project using VMS units to gather data on their fishing activity. This data is very valuable in terms of marine spatial planning, monitoring restricted and closed areas, and improving the stock assessment process.

Velvet Crab Escape Gaps – Escape gaps have been introduced in brown crab creels to allow velvet crabs to escape as a means of stock conservation. It is part of the SSMO’s creel limitation policy whereby all fishermen are limited to 600 creels, 240 of which can be used to fish for velvet crabs.


In 2012 Shetland achieved a world first for its three main inshore shellfish fisheries, achieving full MSC certification for brown crab, velvet crab and dredged king scallops. A significant achievement for the shellfish industry, which is currently worth around £7 million to the Shetland economy.

Close links between fishermen and scientists at the NAFC Marine Centre has generated many years of valuable scientific and fisheries data, which is used to manage the fishery, giving the industry the competitive edge when undergoing the MSC assessment process.

In 2018 the Brown Crab Fishery and Scallop Fishery were successfully reaccredited while the Velvet Crab Fishery goes through a stock rebuilding process.

Shetland continues to have the only MSC certification for Brown Crab and dredged King scallops in Europe.


Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is all about setting global standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability. Assessed by a team of independent auditors the label demands that:

• Fishing activity must be a sustainable level
• Minimised environmental impact
• Effectively managed fisheries

The MSC label guarantees a link with the specific fishery and is proof that it is from a sustainable, well-managed source.


Leading the way in fisheries management

The Shetland shellfish industry is an integral and growing part of the Shetland economy and is leading the way in shellfish management. Key to its success has been the capacity to manage its own inshore shellfish fisheries out to a six-mile limit through a Regulating Order.  This regulation for shellfish is unique to Scotland and allows the local community to take a real stakeholding in the management of its marine resources. SSMO was set up in 2000 and was granted the legal right to manage the Regulating Order. It is a partnership of organisations with an interest in the future of Shetland’s shellfish industries. The organisation is run by a Board of directors half of whom are active fishermen. Amongst other things, the Regulating Order gave the SSMO the power to impose restrictions and regulations, to issue licences and the right to set tolls.


To continue to maintain sustainable and well managed shellfish fisheries operating within a healthy marine environment.

The SSMO’s close relationship with NAFC Marine Centre, means that there is a strong scientific base from which to manage stocks. This, combined with the pro-active approach to self-regulation by the shellfish fishermen, has led to some remarkable and positive developments in managing and sustaining this important fishery.