We are now into the Hairst with the weather getting wetter and not long until the clocks change to give us all an extra hour in bed!

October highlights:  Our book of the month is Seafood Recipes created by Seafish chef ambassadors and we are learning about whale song in our kids book. Our  fish of the month is the Atlantic Salmon and the project of the month is The PANDORA project. Check out the Heritage topic this month which looks at Shetland’s relationship with whaling and in this months what’s on section we look at Love Seafood Social and Unblocktober.

Book of the Month

Seafood Recipe Booklet by Seafish


Seafish are a public body who support the seafood industry across the UK. They have lots of information about the sustainability and health benefits of seafood and tasty recipes to try from their new website www.loveseafood.co.uk.

This handy recipe booklet can be downloaded for free here. It includes family favourites and modern classics which can be easily cooked at home. The recipes have been provided by the Seafish chef ambassadors who have a wealth of seafood knowledge and expertise.

Since it is Seafood Week from the 12th-16th of October why not recreate some of the recipes for a tasty tea! Tag us in any of your seafood photos, we would love to see them.

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Kid’s Book of the Month

Have You Ever Heard a Whale Sing? written by Divya Panicker,  illustrated by Deepti Sharma


This month we are learning all about whale songs. There are lots of different noises under the sea but the whale makes the loudest of all!

This ebook is available for free on the Free Kids Book website along with a huge array of different books covering lots of topics for all different age groups. There are also lots of activities you can do too.

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Project of the Month

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The PANDORA Project

The NAFC Marine Centre UHI is a partner in the multi-national PANDORA Project.

PANDORA: Paradigm for Novel Dynamic Oceanic Resource Assessments

In cooperation with regional stakeholders, the PANDORA project aims to:

  • provide new biological knowledge on fish and ecosystems.
  • build more robust tools to assess future fish stocks.
  • improve science-based advice to fisheries management.
  • create ‘Pandora‘s Box of Tools’ for assessments and practitioners.
NAFC’s role in PANDORA – Scottish Pelagic self-sampling

As part of PANDORA, the NAFC Marine Centre UHI is leading the North-Western European Shelf regional case study, which focuses on the Scottish Pelagic Self-sampling Scheme. It is a pilot scheme aimed to design and develop robust data collection methods for the crews of pelagic fishing boats to self-sample catches of herring, mackerel and blue whiting.

Fisher self-sampling is a growing area of research, having the potential to provide valuable information, across fishing seasons and grounds, in an efficient and cost-effective manner; with fishers themselves becoming more interested to become involved with science and take on responsibility for providing data. Collaboration between industry and science can improve understanding and confidence in scientific advice, and can build trust to ensure on-going partnerships and continued communication.

The pilot will establish data collection methods, which can then be applied across the Scottish pelagic industry in the long-term, providing quality data to inform stock assessment and ecological research. To deliver this, the NAFC is working in close partnership with the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association (SPFA) and Marine Scotland Science as well as individual pelagic fishing boats.

Scottish Pelagic Self-sampling at a glance

Established 2018 and running until 2021 (completion of the pilot project due 2021)

Voluntary participation of Scottish pelagic fishing fleet

Originally 7 vessels participating at the start of the project, now at point of full fleet involvement (22 vessels)

200+ fishing trips sampled between July 2018 and March 2020

400+ hauls sampled between July 2018 and March 2020

45,000+ fish measured between July 2018 and March 2020

Development of sampling programme to collect length, weight, sex, maturity and age data (fundamental information which is used in stock assessment)

Development of new technology solutions onboard fishing vessels, enabling paperless data collection

Publication of key documentation, including SPFA Data Collection Strategy and SPFA Science Data Policy to support the collaborative work between science and industry

Development of a self-sampling methods manual which documents all practices, underpins the data collection being carried out and can be used as a central reference tool

More information

For further information about the PANDORA project see:

For enquires or more information contact PANDORA Fisheries Scientist Dr Katie Brigden katie.brigden@uhi.ac.uk

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Course of the Month

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Fish Welfare

1 or 2 day taught course, or self-study via online distance learning.


This course cover the concepts of fish welfare and the responsibilities of the aquaculture industry to maintain a high standard of fish welfare to meet the fishes’ needs, comply with relevant legislation, enhance productivity, and boost consumer confidence.

The course satisfies the training requirements of the RSPCA welfare standards for farmed Atlantic salmon (based on the ‘Freedom Food’ standards of the Farm Animal Welfare Committee). It also meets the compliance requirements for other certification schemes (including GLOBALG.A.P.) and codes of practice.

The course is aimed at workers in all sectors of the aquaculture industry, including marine and fresh water production, live fish transportation, harvesting and processing.

Entry Requirements

None. No prior knowledge of fish welfare is required.


The course cover a range of topics relevant to the welfare of farmed fish, including:

  • Legislation and codes of practice.
  • Effects on fish welfare of water quality, husbandry, fish handling and harvesting.
  • Disease management and Veterinary Health and Welfare Plans (VHWPs).
  • Sea lice treatments and effects on fish welfare.
  • Effects of fish welfare on product quality.
  • Monitoring and record keeping.

The two-day taught course covers some topics in more detail and includes a practical element.


Taught Course: The Fish Welfare course can be delivered as a 1 or 2 day course at the NAFC Marine Centre UHI, or elsewhere by arrangement. The 2-day course covers some topics in more detail and includes a practical element.

Self-Study – Online Distance Learning: Alternatively, the course can be completed by self-study through online distance learning using the UHI’s ‘Brightspace’ virtual learning environment.

The online course is flexible and can be undertaken as and when is convenient to the student on any computer, tablet or smartphone with internet access. The total required study time is normally about 8 to 10 hours and an online assessment must be completed to receive a course certificate. Online students have 6 months from enrolment to complete the course.

Full instructions for online study are provided at enrolment and online students can contact an NAFC tutor for assistance at any stage of the course.

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Fish of the Month

Atlantic Salmon colour CMYK


Salmo salar

Atlantic salmon have a streamlined shape and are a silvery grey colour sometimes with darker spots. In the wild salmon are anadromous which means they migrate from the sea to fresh water to spawn1. In Shetland Atlantic salmon is farmed at sea and contributes around 1/3 of all Scottish salmon produced2.

Atlantic salmon has a pink/orange coloured firm flesh with a bold flavour. It can be cooked most ways and served hot or cold. It is high in protein, phosphorus, selenium, niacin and vitamins B6, B12 and D3.

Farmed salmon begins as eggs in fresh water tanks before being laid out in incubation trays. The growth cycle is managed until they reach smolt stage. Smolts are moved into cages in the sea at around 15 cm, weighing around 80-100g. Farmed salmon are usually grown for 18-24 months before being harvested 4.

1 http://www.atlanticsalmontrust.org/salmon-and-sea-trout-facts/
2 Shetland Islands Regional Marine Plan 2020
3 http://www.fishisthedish.co.uk/learn/fish-guide/species-of-fish/salmon-atlantic
4 www.somuchtosea.co.uk/salmon-3/

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Heritage Topic of the Month


Shetland is a great spot to see a huge variety of whales throughout the year from the small minke and pilot whales right up to orcas and humpback whales. However, in the not so distant past Shetland had four whaling stations based in the north mainland and many men were being picked up to head to the whaling in Greenland and later South Georgia. This month we are discussing the history of whaling in Shetland.

Caaing Whales

Whaling was an important part of crofting life in Shetland for many centuries offering a provision of oil through the winter months. During extreme times of famine, the whale meat was sometimes consumed but this was not a regular occurrence in Shetland unlike Faroe and Iceland where whale meat is a traditional delicacy. The oldest records found in Shetland and Orkney for whale caas date back to the late 16th century.

If pods of whales were sighted offshore, all the men would gather in their boats to caa (or drive) them into the shore where they would then be slaughtered. However, unlike the Grindadrap in the Faroe Islands where every part of the whale is used, in Shetland the main use was oil for domestic use and export. The Pilot Whale is still called the Caain’ Whale locally and was the most common species to be driven ashore.

Even though it was the crofters who would catch and process the whales, from around the 18th century, the laird (landowner) would claim a third share of the profits from selling the oil. That was until 1888 with the Hoswick Whale Case.

Hoswick Whale Case
Whales Hoswick
Whale caa in Hoswick, Shetland

On the 14th of September 1888 men and boys from Cunningsburgh, Levenwick and Sandwick drove over 300 whales ashore at Hoswick. John Bruce younger of Sumburgh owned 33 merks and 2 ures of land in Hoswick and tried to claim his rights to a third of the catch. However, the Crofters Act of 1886 gave the tenants far more security than ever before and, led by Sinclair Duncan from Hoswick, the crofters refused Bruce his share.

Bruce took the crofters to the Sheriff Court in Lerwick but Sheriff MacKenzie ruled in favour of the crofters. Unperturbed, Bruce escalated the case to the supreme court but on the 1st of June 1890, three out of the four judges ruled in favour of the crofters and the Shetland lairds never tried to claim a share of whale caas again.

You can learn more about the Hoswick whale case at the Hoswick Visitor Centre.


Shetlanders had a reputation for being good sailors and this meant that men were susceptible to being pressganged through war times. Whalers also began to stop in Lerwick looking for crew. Up until 1779 the whalers were not meant to take any Shetland crew by law, but the lure of better wages and more freedom meant that men had been going to the whaling for many years.

The Shetland Lairds were apposed to the Greenland whaling for a long time for several reasons. The Haaf fishing which was run by the lairds from the early 1700s was dependant on labour and was very profitable. Tenants would fish for the laird through the summer and their holdings were too small to support the family and pay rent so tenants would be given credit for the Laird’s own shop to buy food and supplies. They also had to “sell” their fish to the laird for lower than market price which was then put against their debts at the shop. Men heading to the whaling and the impressment of men for the navy left the Laird’s with a lack of workforce and this was not good enough. Some lairds would threaten to evict tenants if they didn’t fish for them and two brothers were banished from Whalsay by the Bruce family after it was found out they had gone to Greenland.

Lairds also didn’t want merchants working as agents for the whalers and becoming creditors which would give them a foothold in the local economy.

The following was a petition written to the House of Commons by Thomas Mouat of Garth (who built Belmont House) in 1793. Usually only a couple of men from Unst had headed off to the whaling but in 1793 27 men had gone, encouraged by Mouat’s neighbours in Unst and Mouat was not happy about the situation.

“The Greenland Whale fishing is carried on by ships which ln order obtain the bounties given by Government are obliged to have a certain number of men in proportion to the number of boats

each ship carries, and a muster of their crews is made at the respective port from which they are fitted out, by which they appear to have the number of men regulated by law. The truth, however, is that many of those ships are deficient at the time of their leaving the ports of England or Continent of Scotland, which deficiency the commanders cloak by making false musters of crews by borrowing men, and trust to compleat their crews by engaging people in Shetland at easier rates, where no muster is made and thus they often obtain-bounties by practising a fraud on the mustering officers, and contrary to the spirit and intent of the law.

Those ships arrive in Bressay Sound and in Baltasound in Unst, about the middle of March, and seduce and carry off servants from their masters, children from their parents and even tenants from their possessions without any regular intimation being given, and tend a deaf ear to the remonstrances of landlords, masters of families and parents, who object to such unwarrantable proceedings.”

The lairds even tried to deal directly with the shipowners themselves promising to offer a regular supply of men and suggesting the Shetland men should be paid less than their English counterparts and that they would only need a skeleton crew when travelling to and from Shetland to the ships home port, reducing the running costs of the ships. The lairds wanted to be paid 45 shillings per man per month and set the amount the sailor would be paid.  But the government legislation and bounty offered to ships made this impossible. The lairds option also presented very little flexibility in crew needed by the whalers which fluctuated greatly from season to season. Thus, the Lerwick based agents continued to monopolise the whaling industry in Shetland.

The Greenland whaling changed the economy of Shetland by injecting cash into what had been a mainly cashless society, and this would lead the way for the Faroe Cod Fishery and Herring Fishery in the following centuries. The Hay family who also had interests in da haaf, cod and herring industries where prominent merchants for the whaling too with contacts across the UK proving invaluable.

It has been estimated that around 1000 men were heading to the Greenland whaling each year during the early 1800s and that by the middle of the century around half of all the crews were made up of Shetland and Orcadian men.

By the mid nineteenth century, the Greenland whaling was in decline, but Shetlanders continued to head north. Longer voyages in more dangerous conditions began to become more common and seal hunting began as well. It became normal to make two trips, sealing hunting first followed by a longer whaling trip.


Alexandra Whaling Station, Collafirth

In February 1904 legislation in Norway made it illegal to hunt whales off Tromsoe, Finnmark and Nordland. It also made it illegal to process carcasses of whales which had been caught outside the exclusion zone and this led to the Norwegian companies looking for bases elsewhere.

In April 1903 Christian Nielsen set up the Zetland Whale Fishing Company In Ronas Voe, Northmavine and in June the same year the Norrona Whale Fishing Company was opened by Peder Bogen. Both stations caught over 60 whales during their first year of operation. Both the stations were closed at the beginning of the First World War by order of the British Admiralty and neither reopened.

In 1904 the Alexandra Whaling Company was set up by Erling Lund in Collafirth, Northmavine and the Olna Whaling Company was opened by Christian Salvesen & Company in Voe, Delting. These stations were also closed at the beginning of the First World War but did reopen for a short time after. The Alexandra station was bought over by Salvesen and closed down in 1921 with equipment moved to the Olna station in Voe which continued until 1929. However, the Salvesen Co. would continue to have links with Shetland crews until the 1960s.

The season ran from around April/May until September. The main product was oil but it was in the companies interest to process as much of the whale as possible and so whale meat meal (used as a protein source in animal feed), whale guano (a mixture of 2/3 flesh and 1/3 bone meal) and bone meal. Left over liquid was called glue water and this was stored before being periodically released into the sea.

The companies brought everything from Norway, buildings, boats, crews and even food. However, the stations did offer some local employment and it is thought around half of the workforce were Shetlanders. Towards the end of the whaling stations, there was also a downturn in the herring fishery and one of the reasons given was by products from the whaling was attracting sharks (dogfish?) which in turn scared away the herring. A committee investigated the claims in 1904 but could find very little evidence that the whaling was the cause.

With overfishing in the northern hemisphere and a reduced need for whale products, the last station closed in 1929.

South Georgia

There was a resurgence in whale products through both World Wars with whale oil used in margarine, and as a lubricant for machinery and bomb making. The meal was also used as animal fodder. With the northern waters overfished, this led to companies heading to the southern hemisphere with Christian Salvesen & Company, who had the Olna Whaling Company in Shetland, being a major player.

Men from Shetland would head to the Salvesen company headquarters in Leith, Edinburgh and board ships bound for South Georgia with trips meant to last from autumn until spring but sometimes lasting for 2-3 years at a time. It was a tough job but the money the men made meant that they were able to build homes or buy fishing boats on their return to Shetland and was a major economic boost to the islands and probably helped to stem a mass emigration which had happened during earlier periods in Shetlands history.

To begin with all the processing was done on shore in South Georgia by mainly Norwegian and British companies. After the stocks closer to the stations were depleted, large factory ships were created which would travel further offshore and process the whales onboard. Very little of the whale was left at the end of the process.

Sometimes the men would make souvenirs to take back to their families and painted eardrums were a common gift to take back, you can see examples at the Scalloway and Shetland Museums. (please check their current guidance in relation to COVID-19 before visiting.) Painted penguin eggs were another common keepsake.

To hear about the experience of whaling in South Georgia and see some fantastic photos check out Alex Costie from Westray’s account on New Connections across the Northern Isles page. You can also hear a recording of Gibby Clarke from Yell talking about his time at the Antarctic whaling and see a photo of a tablecloth made by Gilbert Hoseason from nylon rope.

The South Georgia whaling came to an end in 1963 when Christian Salvesen & Co. sold their last factory ship to a Japanese company. The industry had evidently become to unviable to pursue any longer and the Shetlander’s link to the whaling industry was broken.

Although Shetland has a long history of persecuting whales, today Shetland is one of the top places in Britain to see cetaceans in their natural habitat with a variety of whales and dolphins a common sight all year round. You can help gather data on cetacean sightings in Shetland by heading over to the Shetland Community Wildlife Group website.

Further Reading
  • Shetland and the Greenland Whaling by Adrian Duncan
  • Shetland’s Whaling tradition from Willafjord to Enderby land by Laureen Johnson
  • Shetland’s whalers remember by Gibbie Fraser
  • Whaling in Shetland by Peter Hurst
  • Whaling in Northmavine by the Hillswick Eshaness Area Regeneration and Development Association (HEARD)
  • Artist Caroline Hack whose work is inspired by Moby Dick and the British Artic Whaling
  • The Last Whalers by Lyndsie Bourgon

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Tabu Word of the Month


Tabu words were words used at sea while at da haaf fishing instead of using the “land” words. For example an otter would have been called a dratsi. The practice arose from superstitions that go back through the centuries and it was thought using tabu words would help to calm the sea gods amongst other things.

Most of the words that have been collected, are either nouns relating to animals and things left ashore or activities done whilst fishing and indeed the fish themselves. Nearly all of the known tabu words are of Old Norse origin.

Occasionally there are several words for the same animal. Sometimes this was related to how the speaker was describing the animal and sometimes it was a regional difference with fishermen from different areas using different words for the same thing.

For Further Information:
Shetland Words: A dictionary of the Shetland dialect

landbrim noun.

surf; break of waves on the shore.

[Old Norse. brim: surf]

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What’s on this Month

The Love Seafood Social – virtual festival: 12th-16th October

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This year Seafish are holding a week long virtual event to celebrate their love of seafood and the amazing fish and shellfish available here in the UK. There will be cook-alongs through the week with some of our favourite celebrities and lots of delicious recipes for you to try at home!  Make sure to follow Love Seafood on instagram, facebook, and twitter.

UNBlocktober 1st-31st October


Unblocktober is a month-long national campaign and awareness month to improve the health of our drains, sewers, watercourses and seas – driven completely by the British public.

When sewers get blocked it can cause a number of problems such as pollution, foul water flooding and the need for extensive repairs with a knock on effect of road works.

In 2019 over 5000 UK residents pledged to change their kitchen and bathroom habits to help save the environment so why not get involved this year!

How to get involved 

It is super easy to get involved. All you have to do is pay more attention to what you put down the drain this October and commit to putting none of the following 16 items down your drains or toilets for the whole month:

  • Cooking oil
  • Food (even crumbs)
  • Butter, margarine & lard
  • Cooking sauce
  • Wet wipes
  • Period products (tampons, applicators & wrappers; sanitary/menstrual pads & towels)
  • Nappies
  • Condoms
  • Cotton buds
  • Contact lenses
  • Bandages and plasters
  • Dental floss
  • Razor blades

You can also sign up for free as an individual or a business and get a free resource pack.

Here in Shetland we are very lucky to have an excellent zero waste shop which have lots of great alternatives to plastic. Many of the rural shops are also now stocking eco-friendly products so we can all do our bit to safeguard our sewers and seas!

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