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Summer Sailings
Appendix B.—Oysters and Mussels in the Shetland Islands


Mr. Tudor, in his Orkneys and Shetland, published in 1883, writes as follows :—

The Shetlanders are said to have nearly exhausted the large whelks known as buckies, and to be fast destroying the mussel scalps, as they have already done the oyster-beds which previously existed in Cliff Sound and other places.

My recent visit to Shetland enables me to corroborate the truth of this statement, especially as regards oysters. Yet there can be no doubt that oysters were once plentiful and cheap, even within the memory of living man, and might again be so if judiciously cultivated and adequately protected. Mr. Anderson of Hillswick, a fish-curer and general merchant in Shetland, whose acquaintance with the fisheries ranges over a long series of years, sends me the following list of localities in Shetland which, he thinks, would be suitable for oyster culture, specifying those in which oysters are still found :—

1. Bressay Sound, on the east side, near the kirk; west side, docks to Grimesta.
2. Dales Voe; oyster spat was sown here by proprietor, Mr. Hay.
3. Laxfirth Voe should be an excellent place, also good trout fishing.
4. Wadbister Voe.
5. Catfirth Voe.
6. Dourye Voe.
7. Vidlin Voe.
8. Swining Voe.
9. Collafirth Voe (Delting).
10. Dales Voe    (do.)
11. Firths Voe.
12. Tofts Voe, near Mossbank.
13. Hamna Voe (Yell). Fine trout taken here.
14. Burra voe    (do.)
15. Reafirtli Voe (do.), or Mid Yell.
16. Basta Voe (Yell). Here oysters are found.
17. Balta Sound (Unst).
18. Whalfirth Voe (Yell).
19. Lady Voe (do.) "West Sand wick.
20. Collafirth Voe, Northmaven.
21. Quayfirth Voe    do.
22. Gluss Voe    do.
23. Garths Voe (Delting).
24. Yoxter Voe (do.), and all round to Northmaven.
25. Hubens, near Foula Ness.
26. Ron as Voe.
27. Hamna Voe, Northmaven ; trout or salmon caught here some years ago, 14 lb. weight.
28. Urafirth Voe, Northmaven, near Hillswick. Oysters found.
29. Hammers Voe.
30. Gunnister Voe.
31. Mangester Voe.
32. Roe Sound (Delting). Here oysters have been found.
33. Burravoe, in Busta Voe. Here also oysters are found.
34. Olnafirth Voe.
35. Gonfirth Voe.
36. Aiths Voe and East Burrafirtli Voe.
37. Yemen try, Clousta Voe, and Unifirth Voe.
38. West Burrafirtli Voe.
39. Yaila Sound.
40. Gruting Voe.
41. Bixter Voe. Here oysters are found.
42. Wiesdale Voe.
43. Stromness Voe.
44. Whiteness Voe.
45. Burra Isles. Here oysters are found.
46. Trondra and Scalloway.

In his letter to me, enclosing the above list, Mr. Anderson writes as follows :—

I hope one possessed of capital may see the way to prosecute the oyster culture here ; it might become of immense importance to our country.

Of the localities mentioned by Mr. Anderson, I have personally visited Dales Voe, Aiths Voe, Laxo Voe, Catfirth Voe, Wadbister Voe, Bixter Voe, Basta Voe, Balta Sound, Stromness Voe, and some others, and I quite agree with him in thinking them well fitted for oyster cultivation.

I have received a good many communications in answer to the printed queries on the subject of oysters and mussels in Shetland. One gentleman writes :—

I consider it most essential that the oyster-culturist should have a legal right to the beds, and also that he should be enabled to claim protection. Almost every voe in Shetland would be suitable for oyster culture, especially Basta Voe, Garths Voe, and Arna Voe.

Another states that—

The number of oysters has greatly decreased. I remember, as a boy, the women used to bring them to the houses and sold them for Is. the 100. That would be in the early part of 1870. The Voe of Bixter has been completely dredged up. One of the neighbouring tenants made £500 one winter by dredging and exporting.

One of the principal proprietors in Shetland writes:—

The Burra Islands, near Scalloway, is the only place where a few oysters are now got. Oysters formerly were abundant in Basta Voe, North Yell, and sold at Is. the barrel. But they were dredged up to the very last one.

The fishery officer at Lerwick states that there are no oyster beds or mussel scalps at present in Shetland which are regularly worked and yield a profit to their owners :—

Oysters have decreased, but the supply of mussels is about the same. Oysters were at one time got in considerable numbers near Burra Isle, but have been dredged out. It would be essential to have the protection of the law in some form.

He gives the following places as best suited for oyster or mussel culture—Basta Voe, Olnafirth Voe, Vaila Sound, Weisdale Voe, Burra Isle, etc. etc. A Lerwick merchant, thoroughly well informed in all matters relating to the fisheries, writes :—

Any oysters or mussels got in Shetland are taken up without any leave being asked from any one. But very few oysters remain. The number of oysters and mussels has diminished very considerably. There are a great many cases in which formerly productive oyster and mussel beds have been dredged out and destroyed. No steps are being taken to restore such beds. Protection is essential. I should say that all round Shetland there are places suitable for the culture of both oysters and mussels. But nothing will be done by proprietors or others to improve the present state of matters until the law assists them.


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