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

Nothing on the box to watch and lots of paperwork to plough through so it is Nickel Creek on iTunes and a post to write. It was good to get out fishing again and although a cold and crisp day to be at sea I do love both the company and solitude of nature on the Inner Sound. You are both alone and in company at the same time. Some days you are more aware of where you are and connect better with the environment you are in, indeed the activity of fishing is secondary and is only the vehicle to get you on the water. Sometimes the feeling you are being watched is more than a feeling.

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After a long day sorting out tangles of creels, the gear having been left over the festive period and accompanying bad weather, the evening light show kicks in again. With the sun setting to the south of Raasay over the Cuillin there are endless variations at this time of year.IMG_1211

Yesterday a delegation from the newly formed Scottish Creel Fisherman’s Federation was to meet with Richard Lochhead, Fisheries minister, and I received this email from a representative from an Association further south of us and it is worth printing off as it says it all and more.

“Thank you for giving us this time to voice the concerns and aspirations of the Scottish creel fishermen.

When I was a young lad my father, along with thousands of others were employed in the herring fishing on the West coast, this fishery has now gone.

The white fishery which employed hundreds has now also collapsed there.

These West coast fisheries were not the victims of unforseen events or natural disasters, the cycle was the same both times, the fisheries became overdeveloped due to hungry markets and better technology, and stocks went into decline. lack of supply to the market made it viable for the larger and better financed vessels from elsewhere to fill the gap causing these fisheries to collapse.

The only fishery left on the West coast which employs significant numbers of people is prawns and there are signs that history is about to repeat itself. The prawns trawl sector on the West coast has been in rapid decline, and some rules are being relaxed which allow huge horse power from the East coast to compete with them. It appears from recent announcements that this situation will continue. We believe that the science behind the TAC which allows this is flawed, the West coast boats even in their heyday, have struggled to catch the full quota on their own. The added horse power will inevitably cause lack of stocks and force the trawlers inshore and into ever more conflict with the creel men, further damaging the ability of both sectors to compete in a difficult market.

Prawn creeling was going on sustainably and profitably on the West coast for many decades before the inshore zone was opened to trawling. since 1985 the ground available for creels has been shrinking due to the development of gear that can be towed on hard ground and also because some skippers take advantage of the fact trawlers are able to tow creels away with almost total impunity. We now have the bizarre situation in the NW where a vibrant and potentially expanding creel sector, which employs some 80% of the fishermen, is being hemmed in to around 30% of the available inshore ground, while also having no access to offshore grounds.

We believe that a majority of fishermen on the West coast now agree that the three-mile limit should be re-instated there, and we welcome, and would be keen to contribute to, any fair and independent review of this legislation and its social, economic and environmental impact.

We also favour o prawn permit system for langoustine, possibly based on the amount of days worked in a given period rather than weights landed.

Creel fishing has a built-in effort cap. You can only haul on creel at a time, regardless of the size and power of your vessel. Because of this inability to Oversize” it has remained a major employer round the coast.

For many fragile communities in the NW, creel fishing is the only employment. It is the aim of the SCFF that management of the inshore fisheries must put employment ahead of big money interests.

I believe that Government shares these aims.”

So good to see your views starting to be replicated and being presented to government. When Kenny and I went to give evidence to the RACCE committee one of the things I remember clearly was Kenny pointing out it was only thirty years ago that this current mess was created by implementing the Inshore Fisheries Act of 1985 and with similar legislation can easily be corrected.

Over the Hill this afternoon to take Ruariadh to the Kishorn Yard to catch his lift to Glasgow for a couple of courses and driving instruction. Forest of masts ashore where they are safe from the west coast winter storms.

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Going back along the loch side it looks so quiet and it is good to absorb the quietude of nature to put all things in perspective. On the Highland News there was an article about the Land Reform Review Group’s submissions and David Cameron (the real one), chair of the Community Land Unit talking sensibly and rationally about the issues communities have to face across the Highlands. My own submission , I have had to request be kept private, as I cannot be bothered fielding the inevitable bricks. It is an interesting time we live in and reinforces my view that there is no such thing as the status quo. So I look across the loch….

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Comments on: "Fishing and Land Representations." (4)

  1. Wonderful sunset – very ‘Applecross’. Back in the eighties I remember Ullapool being full of Russians, tatty Ladas and factory ships off the Summer Isles. I assume these have now gone for good?

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      They are certainly gone for now and part of the reason is the shoals of mackerel have moved north so Ullapool is so far from the fishing grounds. May change again but is showing no sign of this.

  2. Rod Coldwell said:

    Yes, it is good to feel at one with the land and sea around us and here, in
    Applecross, we are blessed with the best of environments. However, even
    we need some form of escapism and we know where that is… yes, you’ve
    got it, “Borgen” at 21.00hrs on BBC4 on Sat nights. Enjoy! Rod.

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