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Ex-cod men take up trout crofting

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Hans J Marter

18 April, 2008

TWO FORMER employees of failed Shetland cod farmers No Catch have bought the group's organic sea trout business.

Former No Catch operations director Gordon Johnson and the company's production manager Robert Williamson have paid a six figure sum to buy the business from administrators Grant Thornton.

Their new company QA Fish Ltd acquired a sea farm at Aith Voe East, freshwater facilities in the Loch of Strom and Loch of Brouster as well as 125,000 sea trout in different stages of maturity.

Fish presently in cages at Mangaster Voe will continue to be harvested from that site as part of a contract with Scottish Sea Farms.

The company will continue contracting Paul Featherstone to produce juvenile fish for ongrowing. Mr Featherstone has pioneered the farming of sea trout at his Kergord Hatchery.

Two former No Catch employees will transfer to QA Fish, while Mr Williamson will continue to be employed by the administrators for another year to oversee the ongrowing of cod still in cages.

Speaking from his office in Trondra yesterday (Thursday), Mr Johnson said: "I always had a keen interest in the product and I am convinced Shetland sea trout has significant business potential.

"This is a small niche product and I would describe our operation more as sea crofting rather than sea farming."

QA Fish will employ five or six people including the owners’ wives Julie Johnson and Arlene Williamson who are also company directors. QA stands for 'quality assured'.

Fifty two year old Mr Johnson worked with No Catch and its predecessor Johnson Seafarms for four years between March 2003 and July last year. Previously he had been the principal of the North Atlantic Fisheries College, in Scalloway.

He added that he was looking forward to running a small, specialised fish farming company that was in need of "personal touch and attention". The company is in negotiations to get the brand name Shetland Sea Trout trademarked.

QA Fish will continue with sales to established customers the length and breadth of the country, and is also investigating new product lines such as cold and hot smoked fish.

Mr Johnson stressed that no public money had gone into the acquisition of the company from the administrators.

Daniel Smith, of Grant Thornton, said: "We are delighted to have achieved this sale of the business as a going concern, particularly as it follows rapidly on the sale of the majority of the operating assets of the No Catch Group to a consortium comprising of Scottish Sea Farms Ltd and Hjaltland Seafarms UK on 10 April."

No Catch went into administration on 18 February with debts of more than £40 million.

Most recent update - Tuesday, 06 May 2008 17:07
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