Meet Beth Mouat, who is like many Shetlanders in that she grew up fascinated by the sea that surrounds her. Today, she’s the Joint Head of Marine Science and Technology at the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, which provides research and training for Shetland’s all-important fishing and aquaculture industries.
Those industries are worth more than GBP300 million to the islands’ economy, and more fish is landed in Shetland than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Beth’s team do the background research to ensure that the fishery is as clean, sustainable and innovative as it can be, from one-man lobster operations to mussel farms and huge pelagic trawlers. The NAFC also offers more than 140 courses, including hands-on modern apprenticeships, for people wanting to study fishing and aquaculture.
“All the seafood we produce is of a very high quality,” says Beth. “It’s partly to do with the clean environment, and partly to do with how the fishermen look after their catch, and how closely monitored the industry is. It’s a very clean fishery, too, with minimal bycatch.”
Fishing, and the sea, aren’t just economically important to Shetland. “When you grow up here, the sea’s in your blood,” says Beth. “It runs through just about every aspect of our culture, and it’s always there somehow.”