RECORD landings of white fish on the Shetland Islands confirm the recovery of stocks in the North Sea, key industry sources have said.

At Lerwick and Scalloway 307,870 boxes of white fish, including cod and haddock, were brought ashore this year, the highest figure recorded in modern times.

The news comes as Brussels announced increased fishing quotas for Scottish fleets, which could lead to a £25 million boost for the industry, following evidence of stocks replenishing.

The North Sea cod quota will rise by 15 per cent, while the quota for haddock will increase by 47 per cent.

Research by Seafish, the publicly-funded body which represents the seafood industry, and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), published earlier this year, found North Sea cod was close to being certified as sustainable.

Despite this apparent good news for fishermen, Marine Conservation Society still advises consumers to refrain from buying North Sea cod, because it remains at historically low levels.

The environmental body has acknowledged that stock levels are recovering, however, after years of strict legislation in response to overfishing.

At Shetland’s white fish market 11,725 boxes of fish were landed this week alone, the highest tally for a five-day period since 2003.

It is the third year in a row that more than 300,000 boxes of white fish have been landed in Shetland.

The last time such a large amount of fish was brought ashore was in the late 1980s.

Brian Isbister, chief executive of the Shetland Fish Producers’ Organisation, said the figures showed an encouraging consolidation of landings on the previous two years.

“After years of low to moderate landings, the industry is in a much better place now with the recovery of the main stocks.

“Confidence is returning to the white fish fleet and skippers are investing in the future once again,” he said.

Simon Collins, executive officer of the Shetland Fishermen’s Association, said the significant quota increases, approved by the EU for key white fish species earlier this week, reflected the strength of stocks.

“The scientists and the European Commission are slowly catching up with what our members are seeing every day on the grounds,” he said.

“Fishermen are nervous that all the good work they have been doing will be undermined by over-zealous regulators who are very distant from the tough practical realities of fishing.”

After decades of overfishing in the North Sea, fishermen believe their livelihood is now becoming sustainable, allowing them to invest.

Fishing remains an important part of Scotland's economy, particularly in rural areas, and at least 60 per cent of fish caught in the UK is landed there.

The latest figures for landed fish confirm that Shetland, where fishing is a major industry, is now the second biggest white fish port in the UK after Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.

Martin Leyland of the seafood auctions on Shetland said: “It’s very pleasing to see these records being broken as we achieve the third successive year of strong landings in Shetland.

“I think it’s a reflection of the fact that buyers are seeing the quality of fish that they require on a weekly basis and skippers are getting good prices.

“Consistency is obviously important in any market and hopefully we will see a continuation of this positive trend.”