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

Fishing in Fort William.

Another combination day where fishing was followed by a shift at the Inn. 400 creels up with the last two kept on board for washing and looks like I will have plenty of time to sort them looking at the forecast for the next few days. Slightly more prawns but still poor. Reports to the immediate north and south are the same. Pleasant evening at the Inn with it being not too busy, guys still waiting for tables and a little nervous about residents mostly coming in at 8pm as all the tables full. But as usual the Boss had every thing in hand. As it is becoming slightly less busy you can spend a little more time with the customers. Like the couple from Inverness who got married this week, the Swiss lady with her Cypriot partner, the two girls from Huddersfield.

This morning after a couple of phone calls last night it was a nervous drive over the Hill as a change of plan was in the air.

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The weather forecast had obliged and changing my MOT to today worked as I managed an all day fishing yesterday and the expected southerly arrived on time. The change of plan was, instead of going to Kyle as planned, a trip to Fort William for an IFG meeting, picking up with Duncan and Bally at Auchtertyre and Avernish had been arranged. This almost worked but no van at the garage to get me there so the MOT is down for another day.

As hotels go, where the meeting as held, it was a fine example of 70s architecture but sitting beside a smart church of indeterminate religion.

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The meeting got under way and yet another new civil servant introduced. For us there were two main items of interest on the agenda but also several things were said that gave cause for concern in their emphasis like the “closed areas” review. Areas that had fishing restrictions were to be re-examined to see if they were to remain closed. It was pointed out that no “open unrestricted areas” were to be reviewed for possible closure. We, as the wee boys, are always suspicious of agendas that are predetermined in what used to be smoke-filled rooms. The first big issue was we were presented with a fait accompli. The west coast is going to be opened up to squid trawling, a practice which takes place at night in shallow waters…. a recipe for disastrous gear conflict. The prawn gear has already been pushed off the deeper water through pressure by the prawn trawl and is up on the shallow water. This along with crab and lobster gear already in place does not appear to us to be a very well thought out policy change. And we have not even started to think about the environmental impact on shallow water regeneration areas. Think of a species and area that has not been trawled and trawl it. A bizarre policy that suits the few at the expense of the many. The three of us put it in the strongest terms possible that we thought this was a poor idea, unconsulted, and at the very least the trawlers need to have monitoring equipment on board so the creel men know who has towed away their gear. The second issue was a strange one in that a £3 million hardship fund has been set up to compensate TRAWLERS for having a hard time. Again the threesome weighed in firstly pointing out that the more sustainable creel fishermen should surely be entitled to a hand out as well to tide them over tricky times. Actually I sort of suggested why should any fisherman get a hand out as we are the builders of our own misfortune. Why should we be like the bankers and go running to the State after we screw up our own livelihoods.? The East coast chappie and the Govt officials went a bit quiet as I do not think they had come across anything like this before. Guys actually turning down handouts from the authorities, maybe the landed folk should have been there to hear what real folk say about how to deal with hardship. It was good fortune but this week I had a pub conversation about how a stock shows on a graph, the peaks and troughs, and how, if you super impose another graph on top you get the same but with a time lag. The effort will gradually decline as the stocks do and the graph comes together as the effort decreases to match up with the stock availability. And all a hardship fund will do is keep more boats on the water catching too many prawns distorting the correction between stock and catching effort. A better managed fishery would not have these sweeping troughs but that is for another era of a more sensible fisheries policy. We can only live with what we have and eventually, like on land, that is going to be a community fishery.

So after lunch it was back into the car and up the road, discussing what was said and as usual thinking of things we should have said, but the general consensus was that the meeting went well and we put our points forcefully but respectfully and in a heart-felt and non threatening way. A lesson for one or two people I have come across over the last year or so. Good company today and informative, pleasant with a mild sense of having done something worthwhile. Back home, a stop at the Inn to see how langoustine stocks were holding out and then the inevitable call to the Filling Station for a reboot. Good to have your efforts appreciated.

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Comments on: "Fishing in Fort William." (10)

  1. Glad to hear you are still getting your say Ali and sensible with it keeping up the good fight!
    Pity there was no notice when you were coming to the F
    ort it would have bee good to catch…and love this blog. Shirl.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Hi Shirley, It sort of feels like you are getting nowhere sometimes but you still have to go to these meetings you have your say. It has improved slightly in the fact that Marine Scotland have realised that there are far more people involved in the inshore fisheries but we do not generate lots of dosh for the country. The fact that we keep more people in rural parts thus saving money in the long run is important but hard to quantify. Thanks for your heads up on the blog , always appreciated.

  2. It would be devastating if they allow trawlers nearer Applecross Could we start a petition?

    Liz and Janet

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      In theory they can trawl up to and in to Applecross Bay but so far have not mainly due to the amount of crab and lobster gear there and they would have to tow them away first. There are a growing number of eyes on the mobile sector so they have to be more careful than they used to be. What we did on Friday was put down a strong marker that if there is trouble then we will be causing Marine Scotland so much grief they will have to sort out any new problems their unthought through policies will create. No doubt you will hear. The sad thing about it all not enough people care. It is almost like you cannot see it so it does not matter. Appreciate your caring. cheers.

  3. Do you think “landed folk” are wrecking the environment on land the same way fishermen are on the seabed?

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Could not make a sweeping statement like that in saying all do. But locally over the past 40+ years I can safely say that the quality of the environment does not seem to be uppermost. Planting remote conifer blocks and leaving them unmanaged, fencing blocks for regeneration in such a way that you can not walk through these areas now as they are densely covered in scrub, and the same is in danger of happening with the current proposals. No management plan that I have come across. It is only an opinion but through what I have observed over the years the red deer are far more important than the environment and the people in this locale. I do not know what other estates do but I know that Scottish Highlands should have a far better environment in that it could have far more native tree covering that would be both an amenity and income generator but that has not happened through poor management of overgrazing of sheep and deer. Whether that is the fault of the land users or owners I will leave that for you to decide.

      • Interesting. What do you reckon to the big native woodland scheme on Gairloch Estate (on the left at the top of Slattadale)? Is that more the way forward or is it just tokenism as well?

      • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

        Could not comment. Do not know anything about the area.

  4. What a sweeping comment by NK !!!!!

    See younin October Ali xx Can I still pop out in the boat with ya ? xx Staying at Pier cottage again….my retreat

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