Wir Kinda Fish - Fishy Facts

These are the most common species caught in the rich fishing grounds around Shetland. Almost half of the fish landed in the UK is caught within 100 nautical miles of Shetland!

Shetland lies at the heart of the richest fishing grounds in Europe, meaning many different species are caught commercially in the waters that surround the islands. In the last decade the whitefish fleet have landed at least fifty-five different species. Below you will find information about the most common species.

Click on the fish tabs for more information on each species and how to cook it. This poster is also available in print format for educational purposes and fish enthusiasts. Contact us to buy your copy.

If you're looking for a good reference book on seafood, Alan Davidson's 'North Atlantic Seafood' contains a comprehensive wealth of fascinating fishy facts and practical cooking instructions.

Key
Caught by
Pelagic
Whitefish
Inshore
1

Mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Pelagic
Inshore
2

Herring

Clupea harengus

Pelagic
3

Cod

Gadus morhua

Whitefish
Inshore
4

Haddock

Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Whitefish
Inshore
5

Whiting

Merlangius merlangus

Whitefish
Inshore
6

Monk

Lophius piscatorius

Whitefish
Inshore
7

Saithe

Pollachius virens

Whitefish
Inshore
8

Scallops

Aequipecten opercularis, Pecten maximus

Inshore
9

Ling

Molva molva

Whitefish
Inshore
10

Hake

Merluccius merluccius

Whitefish
11

Plaice

Pleuronectes platessa

Whitefish
Inshore
12

Megrim

Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis

Whitefish
Inshore
13

Brown Crab

Cancer pagarus

Inshore
14

Lemon Sole

Microstomus kitt

Whitefish
Inshore
15

Squid

Loligo forbesii

Whitefish
Inshore
16

Rays

Leucoraja naevus, Raja clavata, Raja montagui

Whitefish
17

Pollack

Pollachius pollachius

Whitefish
Inshore
18

Witch

Glyptocephalus cynoglossus

Whitefish
Inshore
19

Catfish

Anarhichas lupus

Whitefish
20

Lobster

Homarus gammarus

Inshore
21

Tusk

Brosme brosme

Whitefish
22

Halibut

Hippoglossus hippoglossus

Whitefish
23

Turbot

Scaphthalmus maximus

Whitefish

Mackerel

Scomber scombrus

Pelagic

Pelagic

Inshore

Inshore

Mackerel is a remarkably nutritious oily fish which is very popular in Shetland during the summer months, because it can be caught from small boats close inshore. The majority of mackerel catches, however, are landed by large pelagic fishing boats. A firm fish with excellent flavour, easy to fillet. Its oiliness means it spoils quickly so is best freshly caught and eaten immediately. Grill, fry or bake, delicious hot smoked too.

Herring

Clupea harengus

Pelagic

Pelagic

The silver darlings of fishing lore, herring have been caught for centuries around Shetland and the economic fortunes of the islands once waxed and waned with the stocks. Since the fishery re-opened in 1983 North Sea herring stocks have increased and the species is once again abundant around Shetland. Herring is best known, to many, either pickled or in the form of kippers. Here in Shetland, fresh herring is popular fried in oatmeal but it can also be grilled or baked.

Cod

Gadus morhua

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

A superb, fleshy whitefish, cod is abundant in the North Sea following a marked recovery in stocks since the mid-2000s. It accounts for almost a third of the value of whitefish landed to local markets. Cod steaks or fillets can be fried, poached, steamed or baked. It is a very versatile fish and can be used for a plethora of recipes. Any true fisherman will tell you that the best eating is to be had from the head - cod cheeks and tongues are delicious. Cod roe or “Raans” is another tasty delicacy.

Haddock

Melanogrammus aeglefinus

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

Still Scotland’s most popular fish, haddock accounts for just over a tenth of the volume and value of whitefish landed in Shetland. In 2019, 2,973 tonnes worth £5.7m were sold in the markets in Lerwick and Scalloway. Many would say that haddock is a better fish than cod and at its best, it is excellent. Similarly to cod, it can be fried, poached, steamed or baked. It is extremely versatile and can be used in any number of recipes. Haddock liver and roe are delicious too

Whiting

Merlangius merlangus

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

A smaller fish from the cod family, with a silvery-grey body and rounded belly, they are one of the top five fish caught by local Shetland boats by value. Stocks of this fish have fluctuated quite markedly over the years. Cooked fresh, this is a delicious, light fish. It can be poached or steamed but is also tasty fried. Excellent for drying too.

Monk

Lophius piscatorius

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

Also known as anglerfish, this ugly fish has a huge head, accounting for half its length. Nevertheless, monkfish tails yield fantastic meat, with a firm texture. High prices make it attractive to fishermen and it is regularly among the top five species caught by local boats. Its firm white flesh is sometimes compared to lobster. The dressed tails can be poached, steamed, cut into steaks and fried or grilled. The head is excellent for fish soup

Saithe

Pollachius virens

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

Also known as coley, saithe has a long, tapered body with a blue-black tint. Stocks in the North Sea and West of Scotland have undergone huge fluctuations in the past 50 years. Saithe was the third most landed species in Shetland in 2019 by weight. Young saithe are excellent fried in oatmeal or poached.The flesh of the larger fish, normally available commercially, is slightly grey in colour and fantastic for recipes that include stronger flavours. Brilliant for smoking and salting too.

Scallops

Aequipecten opercularis, Pecten maximus

Inshore

Inshore

One of two MSC-accredited shellfish species caught in the waters around Shetland, king scallops contain a nugget of sweet, firm white flesh joined to a vibrant orange crescent-shaped roe, or “coral”, and are delicious very simply seared or pan-fried. They are also lovely baked in foil with herbs, grilled, battered and deep-fried or ‘scalloped’ (baked in their shells with a little dressing and breadcrumbs).

Ling

Molva molva

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

This fish has a long, slender body with a bronze tint, greenish-brown marks and a white belly. It can grow up to 1.5m long. Information about stocks is sparse, but 1,644 tonnes were landed in 2019, placing it in the top ten whitefish for the isles. Known as Olick in Shetland, this is a really good fish, which can be cooked in all the ways you might do cod - fried, poached, steamed or baked. Ling liver is delicious and can be used to make traditional local dishes; Stap and Krappin.

Hake

Merluccius merluccius

Whitefish

Whitefish

Long, with a round, slender body and mainly grey and silver in colour, hake numbers have exploded in the North Sea in recent years. Quotas have been rising, and 2,505 tonnes worth £5.8m were landed in 2019. Pearly white hake flesh is delicious poached, steamed, baked or fried. It is particularly popular in Portugal and Spain, where it is also traditional to dry hake.

Plaice

Pleuronectes platessa

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

Easily identifiable by its distinctive orange spots, this flat fish species, which is best eaten when very fresh, has increased dramatically in abundance in recent years. A small amount of plaice is caught off Shetland and landed by local boats. Larger fish can be filleted and fried while smaller ones can be grilled whole. Also very good poached.

Megrim

Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

Sometimes called whiff, megrim has an oval body similar to lemon sole with a sandy-brown dark side but is from the same family as turbot and brill. Like monkfish, it is a relatively high value species and is among the top ten fish landed by local boats. Although delicious, this fish can be a little dry so it’s great for recipes with flavoursome sauces or cooked in oil.

Brown Crab

Cancer pagarus

Inshore

Inshore

Shetland is unique in having Marine Stewardship Council (MCS) status for two shellfish species - brown crab and king scallops. These fisheries are sustainably managed and the vast majority of crab is landed by small inshore boats. The quality of Shetland brown crab is excellent. Crab should be bought either live or ready cooked and although it is a little fiddly to clean and prepare, it’s well worth the effort. Whether dressed as a fresh crab salad, with pasta or made into crab cakes, it’s a true delicacy.

Lemon Sole

Microstomus kitt

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

A right-eyed flatfish with a small head, lemon sole is reddish brown, mottled with pink and orange. It also has flecks of yellow and green and an orange patch behind the pectoral fin. Lemon sole is among the top ten whitefish landed in Shetland by value, although the volume caught is relatively small. A firm and exquisitely flavoured flat fish, lemon sole is best cooked very simply, either grilled or à la meunière (floured and fried in butter)

Squid

Loligo forbesii

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

Despite their appearance squid are actually molluscs, related to species like scallops and limpets. The whole of the body of the squid is edible, except the beak and gladius (the hard internal part also known as the pen). Small volumes are landed in Shetland. Ideal for stuffing. Once cleaned you can chop the arms and tentacles and put them in the stuffing. Squid is also popular cut into rings and fried.

Rays

Leucoraja naevus, Raja clavata, Raja montagui

Whitefish

Whitefish

The common skate is one of 13 species of ray and skate in the North Sea, according to ICES. Sporadic catches are made by the local fleet, but it is much less common than other flatfish such as megrim and plaice. Good quality Skate, like other rays, make excellent eating. Don’t be put off by the smell of ammoniac. They can be cleaned and soaked in salt water for a more delicate flavour. Delicious cooked and eaten cold with mustard and vinegar, or skinned, floured and fried.

Pollack

Pollachius pollachius

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

Related to saithe, with which it is often confused, pollack is a white, flaky fish. It is a member of the cod family and can rival cod’s flavour when fresh. It has an olive-green back and pale silver belly. Most commonly caught by sea anglers around Shetland rather than the commercial fishing fleet. A very versatile fish, suitable for any recipe that calls for cod, it can be fried, poached, steamed, or baked. Excellent for salting and drying too.

Witch

Glyptocephalus cynoglossus

Whitefish

Whitefish

Inshore

Inshore

An oval, right-eyed flatfish with a small head and mouth, Witch is from the same family as lemon sole and plaice. Its main habitat is deeper water down to 1,000m over sandy and muddy seabeds. This species is caught in small numbers by boats in the Shetland fleet. A very tasty fish, though a slender one. Good fried, poached or steamed.

Catfish

Anarhichas lupus

Whitefish

Whitefish

Catfish, or Atlantic wolf-fish, is grey with dark grey stripes and a slightly bulbous head. It is caught in small quantities by the Shetland fleet. Catfish has only relatively recently been commercially exploited, it is much more delicious than it looks. Filleted and fried it makes for a truly toothsome dish.

Lobster

Homarus gammarus

Inshore

Inshore

Lobsters are caught off Shetland by inshore fishermen using creels which they set using small boats. This is the highest value seafood species landed in Shetland per kilo. The quality of Shetland lobster is excellent. Like crabs, they should be bought live or ready cooked but they are much easier to clean, and the delicate, yet meaty, flesh is exquisite. To enjoy it at its best, do not overdress. Don’t forget to make a tasty lobster bisque from the shells too.

Tusk

Brosme brosme

Whitefish

Whitefish

Tusk is a cod-like fish found in the North Atlantic. It varies in colour from slate grey to reddish brown, with pale grey undersides. It is not regularly caught by the local whitefish fleet, but is popular among sea anglers. Moderately oily this fish is well-suited to grilling or baking. Also suitable for stuffing, try a mixture of breadcrumbs with an anchovy or two.

Halibut

Hippoglossus hippoglossus

Whitefish

Whitefish

The largest of the various flatfish species, halibut have been known to grow as large as 300kg and 4m long in deeper waters. This is a very tasty, sought-after fish, with firm, creamy-white, meaty flesh. Occasionally caught by anglers off Shetland, although some are landed by commercial fishermen. Best cooked very simply, halibut can be baked, grilled, poached or cooked à la meunière.

Turbot

Scaphthalmus maximus

Whitefish

Whitefish

Like halibut, turbot is a highly prized species – often regarded as the best of the flatfish with great flavour and firm, white flesh. It has an almost circular outline, studded with bony tubercles on its dark side. Colour varies from light to dark brown, spotted with green or black and a white blind side. Excellent poached and served with a simple hollandaise sauce.

Fish not to scale.

This page is part of the Taste of Shetland Local Seafood Provenance scheme set up in partnership with

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