A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

The trawl and Hillfolk.

Back from a little holiday in Inverness which started at 5 o’clock yesterday evening. Spent the day delivering a batch of prawns to Loch Ness Inn and ended up having a little run around trying to match up regulators to the right bottles to set up their barbecue for the ‘Torch.’ Then it was off to Inverness for a rapid run around picking up food and parts for the boat and myself ending up with keeping an appointment at half four. At the moment any time I sit down for more than five minutes I fall asleep. Inverness was pretty chaotic as there was Rockness, Curtis Cup, and the Olympic Flame. Although I had to park across town none of the above bothered or interested me. It was a great curry and to Eden Court to see Hillfolk Noir, a simply brilliant four piece band from Idaho. They rattled song after song off in a sometimes quirky style that included saw and washboard. Mix of bluesy. bluegrass americana and they worked hard. As the audience was low we got to speak to them at the interval and they were ‘sweet’ people, not used to the polite appreciation that we gave them.They were more used to raucous venues back home where they play over people drinking and enjoying themselves. Drove home arriving at midnight still smiling both inside and out. This for me is the sign of good music.

The later half of the week involved the usual Inn work and fishing with a little sleep in between. The fishing is going a little better although the poor way we carry out our custodianship of the sea became apparent on Wednesday/thursday. I have always made it clear that dredging and trawling should not be allowed in inshore waters and everything I say about it is backed up by science and anecdotally, that is observation by the fishermen themselves. Even the trawler men cannot tell me where the fish are now they have been allowed to trawl up to the shore. I can they have been caught by the prawn trawler at an immature size while they try to catch prawns. The ratio of them having to catch and kill 9 kgs of sea life to get 1 kg of prawns to market has never been justified to me. I have always tried to de-personalise the problem as we all know each other and I always have and will say that the prawn trawl is probably the worst thing that has happened locally in my lifetime. I always remember a conversation with a Norwegian fisherman/campsite owner about fishing both in his waters around the Lofotens and back home. It was really interesting until I told him that we allow our trawlers up to the shore and he looked at me almost with pity in that our government could be so ignorant and the conversation died a death. It does make you think when you get reactions from an informed outside source like that, although I fully agreed with him. On Wednesday two hundred yards away I find it slightly depressing that a trawler can quite legally tow past your gear.

It is important not to personalise the problem and I went to sea for the first time when this skipper had a creel boat in the 70s and I have every respect for him as a decent guy but what he does means that I no longer put creels on the ground that he and others have towed on until the end of the year as the ground will have been degraded so much that it needs that amount of time to recover. On thursday I got a radio call from another Applecross boat saying that he had just rescued one of his fleets that had been towed into on of mine. He had to leave most of his rope which was tangled up in my gear and just cut off his creels. So I have something to look forward to next week. To minimise my lost time I have to haul it last fleet of the day and it has to be flat calm. I lose fishing time as these creels will not be working and I have little time as it is to waste sorting some one else’s carelessness or malicious intent. Some trawlers actively want and try to tow creels out of their way so they can have a clear go at the ground. We know the name of the trawler and he did not respond and headed of north without acknowledging radio calls. What a fine specimen he is and he probably sleeps well too. This is only a side issue, the gear lose, it is the destruction of the habitat that most bothers me and as long as it happens then we will remain well below our maximum sustainable yield with many jobs lost and not created. With Marine Scotland telling us two weeks ago that they only found out that there is a large static gear inshore fleet there is little hope in that direction. Fishing static gear on the NW of Scotland is certainly character forming and it is still worthy employment. The sea environment is very much something to fight about. Maybe the fact that Marine Scotland do now know about us and are prepared to meet us without the mobile sector shouting us down is a small step in the right direction. There are other static gear men now talking about a re-introduction of a three/six-mile limit on mobile gear to allow a recovery of inshore stocks. A no brainer for me but now gathering momentum.

Comments on: "The trawl and Hillfolk." (2)

  1. Liz McKnockiter said:

    Ali
    I really sympathise with creel fishermen. Many years ago I worked at the fish factory in Kyle. I was daily shocked by the number of immature dead prawns that were thrown away. Not too environmentally aware at that time , the implications of trawling, struck home. This was long before the word sustainability was in common use. It is further shocking that not much has changed in the last twenty years.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      You are so right. It is the waste that I find so depressing. That so much that gets killed that could survive if caught properly. Creels catch a wide range but most if not needed or commercial is put back alive.

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