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

( I wrote the first part on Saturday evening at the Inn after service with two fairly loud conversations going on on either side but on a reread it is fairly coherent)

The activities diary was full over the last two days, so much so that it is almost hard to believe that I only left the house on Friday morning. Around 8am I left with Dougal for Fort William, Eildh was set for staying at the Big House with Jill and Son No1. Going over the Hill is different every time and above the mist for a while.

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A couple of stops for Dougal on the way down

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and I was there in plenty of time to meet up with five other like-minded fishermen and a couple of Marine Scotland civil servants. The first thing I would say it is great that these meetings are taking place at all and are due in effect to the formation of the Federation. Another group is being formed on the East coast and joining up. More and more fishermen are realising the only way to get the ear of Government is to come together instead of individuals trying to make their points heard. That said these meetings can be hard work and in this case it was passionate, at times five or six of us talking at the same time. The boys running their organisation are getting more and more frustrated as there is no apparent progress in helping us put conservative steps in place to save our industry. There was a common theme running throughout the meeting and we kept going back to it time and time again Spatial Separation, that is two methods of fishing procuring the same species, it just does not work. Every socio-economic study tells us that the static gear fishery is the main way to help fragile coastal communities survive. Nomadic fishermen  only need ground to give up prawns for a couple of weeks or a month before they move on to other grounds and leave the ground for the “local”boys to scratch a living while the ground recovers enough for the nomads to return again to give it another pasting. No way to run a fishery. And that is what we are trying to change. The static gear boys are wanting to introduce sustainable ways to fish, even more than now, but will not if we see our efforts destroyed on an annual basis. It’s pointless. How many times does Marine Scotland have to be told that the only way to save the west coast inshore fishery is to reintroduce the Three Mile Limit. It has to happen and I honestly think it will, just hope it will not be too late. Meeting up with other fishermen you find out that it is becoming a struggle  just to survive. The last couple of years have been hard. Over the piece all you can do is reiterate time and time again that there is little point in funding powerless talking shops like our IFG and yet more and more consultations and surveys. No lunch and the meeting did not finish until three. We felt we made progress at the end of the Meeting but it may just be a little hiatus. I appreciate that being in Government and listening to both sides of the argument, taking the decision on this basis is far harder than our position of arguing one point of view, but as I keep saying our argument is based on science and social surveys. It is as they say a “No brainer”, hate that phrase but it is so descriptive. Not taking a decision is as bad as taking the wrong one. The only positive about these meetings is that they are taking place and we have to keep going. I want to spend the whole of my useful life on the water, I want to see a more diverse fishery, I want to see a healthier Eco system that can sustain coastal communities up and down the coast. These communities have survived from the harvests reaped over the centuries and to see them decline through the inaction we are seeing today is so sad. Rome fiddling fire and Nero come to mind. If those who have held the whip hand in the past cannot see the fact they are dinosaurs they should not be allowed to take a whole fishery into extinction but should be put into that state themselves and leave us to evolve within a healthy ecosystem. Sometimes I think speaking to Dougal is more constructive, but we will be at the next one and yes we will be calling again and again for the reintroduction of the three-mile limit. You can only do so much with consensus. I fished prior to the 1985 Inshore Fisheries Act and there was little thought of the creel men then. How many creels have been towed away over the last thirty years and how many “beetle” prawns crushed on the decks of draggers?

And so it was away up the road to Inverness with Dougal in the passenger seat. A beautiful drive up the road,

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glass calm and a sinking sun so a couple of stops were needed to stop and take in some of the Highlands beauty,

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breathtaking in some places and it is little wonder that so many people flock to visit these parts.

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That was where I was heading, having been kindly invited by the Boss to attend The Highland Tourism Awards at Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness. Smooth day up till driving along Loch Ness, stopped for a snooze, age thing nowadays, and set off again only to drawn up behind a short queue and wait for the emergency services to clear a serious accident. The state of the car made you wonder…. Late but quick change and only missed a couple of the more boring speeches. As Eilean Donan Castle was there I knew a few guys there and they won their award which was no surprise as it has been turned into a major and well run tourist destination. I was on the Loch Ness Inn table, two short listed and Isla Urquhart, manageress, won Ambassador of the Year. Not bad for a 23-year-old. Cracking meal, one of these arty ones, and for me a very pleasant surprise in a wee interlude which involved Donnie Munro singing a Micheal Marra song and a few Runrig numbers. Chatted to him on the way in and asking after Malcolm’s health which appears to be good, West End Hotel days connection. Liked his little tale of Inverness directness, after saying how much the place meant to him he told us of a meeting in the TESCO carpark. A lady came up to him and pointed the finger while not sure who he was, initialing saying he was a Donnie Macleod but eventually nailing him to Donnie Runrig. Then asked him what he was doing was it being an MP, “no” was the reply, “an MSP?” “no” again, ” a Councillor?” and again “no” priceless response. “So you are a nothing then” and told in the Inversnekie accent it went down well. A fine night and Dougal enjoyed his trips around Kingsmills. Stopped off at Rogie Falls on the way home again Dougal was into the woods

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but refused point-blank to go over the bridge

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so it was a wander along the west bank. A lot of water about.

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And a shift at the Inn to finish off a busy first part of the week-end.

Back to the fishing and the ridiculous news that the 7th Baron de Mauley, Rupert Ponsonby, is representing our fishing interests in the EU negotiations. Should n’t be prejudiced but ex Etonian and ex TA  with a reported interest in Circus animals sounds like a fine choice for a Fishing Rep.

Comments on: "Rupert Ponsonby or Donnie Munro." (4)

  1. When will those in charge learn. We have seen collapses of fisheries since the 1950’s and before, millions each year are spent of setting fish quotas and research but yet they still can’t get it right. Fishing is yet another commodity used as a bargaining chip at the EU table. It makes absolute sense to me that what you are doing is right and what the dredgers are doing is wrong.

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Cheers Alistair, one of the small differences is there is a group of fishermen who see the future and it is bleak if we do not do something about it. That might be the problem with the officials. They are not used to fishermen coming to them and saying we will carry out conservation methods, take a wage cut short term in the hope that we can improve the stocks long term. But we need their support to legislate to protect us from the mobile sector….we will see. There are a few that are disappointed and have given up on this new impetus already but the older more patient guys keep banging away.

  2. The expression came into my mind before I saw you used it but although I know little about it, it would seem to me a no-brainer that certain inshore areas are reserved for static gear only. Indeed I’m surprised they’re not already in this day and age Marine Conservation Areas etc. etc. Would I be right in surmising that the reason the ScotGov is dragging its heels over this is that they’re worried about upsetting the more powerful east coast fishing lobby who do the dredging and trawling?

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      It does appear they have too much power and say on what happens on our waters on the west. Things here like in most political arenas at the moment are in a state of flux. I can and hopefully will survive by going part time, the local mobile fleet is up for sale and many of the small creel men are now single handed with many crew coming ashore through lack of steady wage. Inshore waters need far more protection than they get at present. They are the delicate breeding grounds for many species and as long as they are trawled and dredged there will be little hope of a recovery.

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