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SIC to the rescue…of 40,000 smolts

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Gavin Morgan

12 April, 2008

SHETLAND Islands Council has apologised to islanders on Yell and Unst after sending one of their inter island ferries to rescue 40,000 baby salmon from certain death.

The Bluemull Sound service between Yell and Unst was down to a single vessel for five hours yesterday (Friday).

The trouble began on Tuesday when the ferry Geira grounded on the beach at Gutcher, on Yell, after her steering failed. The council brought in its spare ferry Thora, which meant cancelling a private charter with salmon farmers Mainstream Scotland to deliver salmon smolts.

When 40,000 smolts turned up in Lerwick harbour yesterday morning for immediate delivery to cages in Mid Yell, the company hired Shetland firm Manson Marine to bring a vessel north from Orkney to do the job.

Unfortunately their vessel - the former SIC ferry Grima - broke down as she was leaving Orkney, leaving tens of thousands of pounds worth of smolts stranded onshore in two trucks.

SIC’s assistant marine superintendent David Polson was left with the tough decision of running the service with one ferry for a few hours or letting the smolts die on the lorries when they got to Yell.

“The artic trucks couldn’t go back with the smolts and I couldn’t see the other operator getting repairs made and getting back to Shetland in time,” Captain Polson explained.

He decided the only option was to take the ferry Thora out of service for some of the day to get the smolts to sea. “The alternative was to sit by and watch 40,000 smolts die,” he said.

“We had no legal or contractual obligation to undertake this hire, but given the circumstances, we are the only people in Shetland who could assist.

“As such, I took the decision on welfare grounds and the fact that failing to come to Mainstream’s aid would see a product worth many tens of thousands of pounds destroyed.”

Mainstream have assured Captain Polson that they will not move any more smolts until the other operator has a vessel on site or a spare SIC ferry available.

He added: “I offer our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this will doubtless have caused. If I thought there was another avenue open to us, I would have taken it.”

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