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The fish and shellfish resources in seas adjacent to the Outer Hebrides

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2011

R. S. Bailey
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen
J. R. G. Hislop
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen
J. Mason
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland, Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen
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The demersal fishery in Hebridean seas is based mainly on haddock, whiting and cod, mostly from local spawning grounds, with some recruitment from the North Sea. An important seasonal fishery for dogfish is based on a highly migratory stock. All these stocks are probably fully exploited.

Herring spawning grounds occur west and north of Lewis, and larvae drift eastwards to nursery areas, mainly in the North Sea. Enhanced recruitment in the late 1960s and an increase in fishing effort produced a large increase in landings but these have subsequently declined. The west coast herring fishery is subject to quota regulations for conservation. There are also important exploitable stocks of mackerel and sprats. Since 1971 an industrial fishery for Norway pout has taken a few thousand tonnes per annum.

Shellfishing by small boats goes with crofting. Since 1962 the number of larger boats has increased with full-time fishing, particularly for Norway lobsters and lobsters. Exploitation has been helped by processing and lobster-holding facilities. Scallops and periwinkles are also important commercially and there are good prospects for cultivating oysters and mussels.

By far the largest underexploited fish stock is blue whiting, which migrates south to spawn in March-April on the continental slope in depths of over 400 m to the west of Scotland. The spawning stock in this area is estimated to be 5-15 million tonnes. Sandeels may also occur in commercial quantities in some areas.

Research Article
Copyright © Royal Society of Edinburgh 1979

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