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The Far Haaf: Shetland’s first commercial fishing 1750s-1900

When the German merchants left, the lairds saw an opportunity. They fitted out sixareens and, by the 1730s, were salting and exporting Shetland fish, especially ling, to the Continent.

Fishing for the laird

As the demand for haaf fishermen increased, landlords forced their tenants to go to sea and fish – or face eviction.  The fishermen found themselves trapped in an impossible situation. With boats and gear owned by the landlords, they had no choice, knowing that their catch would then have to be sold to the landlords at very low prices. This was a very successful fishery and brought prosperity for the lairds, while the tenants experienced great hardship.