Shetland's Marine Sector and Fishing Industry

Though Shetland is home to a successful energy industry, the economic driver of the islands is its combined marine industries which makes up one third of the economy. The waters around the islands are some of the most productive in Europe and support Scottish and international fishing across a wide variety of species. Shetland has over 200 registered fishing vessels, owned by 500 local shareholder fishermen. In 2020, these vessels landed a total of £105 million pounds worth of fish and shellfish. More fish are landed in Shetland than England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Within aquaculture, Shetland produces nearly 80% of mussels and 20% of farmed salmon in Scotland. Protecting these key industries while also promoting a net-zero future are essential for the well-being of the islands’ communities.

This sector is often acknowledged as being one of the hardest to decarbonise due to the dependency upon marine diesel with few options currently available for transition to alternative clean fuels. Additionally, for the marine industry safety, security, and reliability of the specific vessel technology is paramount, meaning there are added challenges for the industry when considering how to test early stage technology.

Shetland's Ports

Shetland’s ports act as the hub to so many key industries throughout the islands and it is vital they transition in order for Shetland to reach its net zero targets. This involves greening port operations, increasing efficiency and exploring new opportunities that will arise during the transition. It is important to retain the existing activity that currently utilises the ports along with supporting emerging industries such as offshore floating wind support and clean fuel export and bunkering. This will ensure the long-term future of the ports and create further opportunities for the local supply chain.

Risks and opportunities

One risk to the fishing industry across Scotland as net-zero projects commence is the “potential spatial conflicts between fisheries habitats and major infrastructure, such as offshore wind farms” (Talking about Net Zero by Seafood Scotland). This holds especially true in Shetland where fishing and aquaculture and the associated supply chain generate significant economic and community benefits and could be directly impacted by renewable assets such as offshore wind and tidal energy production. Alongside developments such as those arising from the ScotWind and INTOG leasing rounds, there will be greater need for coordination and co-existence of the energy and marine industries in regions where they overlap. This is especially true for areas identified for INTOG as these overlap with some of Europe’s richest fishing grounds around Shetland.

“[T]he seafood sector will innovate to find solutions that achieve what must be achieved, while maintaining a vibrant sector that supports Scottish Communities”

Seafood Scotland, Talking about Net Zero

Shetland is dependent upon its marine industries meaning marine adaptation and innovation will be important to maintaining thriving communities and a vibrant economy across the islands.

Where ORION fits in

Marine transportation using clean fuels is a key area which is being reviewed by the NEPTUNE project, led by the University of Strathclyde, with input from Shetland Islands Council, Ricardo and Babcock. These organisations are spearheading a project to develop a Decision Modelling & Support System to model digitally the use of clean fuels across the variety of different vessel types in Shetland and to underpin a marine strategy for the islands. An ORION Marine Workgroup has been established, with representatives from all of Shetland’s marine sectors, to explore how to transition to clean marine fuels and develop the local infrastructure and supply chain to support the changes that will be required. This will support Shetland key industries to remain central to the local economy while also helping the island to pursue new opportunities that will arise during the transition.

Marine Workgroup

In June 2021, the ORION strategic partners hosted a virtual workshop including contacts across Shetland marine sector supply chain companies to provide an understanding of marine activity and energy use. Beyond information sharing and awareness raising, an important outcome of the workshop was the establishment of a marine workgroup.

The purpose of the group is to align future energy technologies and fuels with the wider Shetland marine sector. The key themes covered by the work group are:

  • Vessel Replacement
  • Port & Quayside Infrastructure
  • Marine Fuels
  • Supply Chain
  • Community & Communications

Members of the working group range across all parts of the marine industries including Ports, Ferries, Fishing, Aquaculture, and Engineering.

Organisations involved

Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited logo
Cooke Aquaculture logo
Highlands and Islands Enterprise logo
Lerwick Engineering & Fabrication logo
Lerwick Port Authority logo
Malakoff Limited logo
North Yell Development Council logo
Nova Innovation logo
Ocean Kinetics logo
ORION Clean Energy Project logo
Peterson logo
Salmon Scotland logo
Scottish Sea Farms logo
Seafood Scotland logo
Shetland Islands Council logo
Shetland Fishermen's Association logo
Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation logo
University of Strathclyde logo
VOAR Energy logo

Thank you to Salmon Scotland, Marine Centre UHI, Shetland UHI and Shetland Fisherman's Association for providing the information for this page.

Statistics and data for the Marine Sector Infographic are sourced from:

Napier, I.R. (2021). Shetland’s Maritime Economy. NAFC Marine Centre UHI report. Available at:

Napier, I.R. (2021). Shetland Fisheries Statistics 2020. Shetland UHI report. Available at:

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