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

Creel verses Trawl.

I fear the head has been above the parapet for quite some time now so I might as well continue. A couple of weeks ago there was a regular feature in the WHFP which on that did Duncan MacInnes, a hard-working representative of the Western Isles. He holds views that are radically different from my own but maybe not surprising as there are several fishermen from the mobile sector in the organisation he is part of, the WIFA. No doubt that he works hard for his members but over the week after the article was published I decided that some of his comments could not go unchallenged and wrote a letter to the paper trying hard not to be outraged from Tonbridge Wells. This along with a BBC program which is to be aired on monday evening at 9pm on Beeb 2 is keeping the creel verses trawl argument afloat.http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02wyv0p  Combined with the proposed introduction of MPAs on the west coast is getting a, hopefully, informed discussion about the future of sustainable inshore fishing moving forward. I am a wee bit stuck with the fundamentalist problem that certain fishing methods are right and others are not. Also already there is much information being put out there that at best can be viewed askance. Although my trawl experience is limited to two weeks duration thirty years ago, over the thirty years since creeling I have not seen the waste of those two weeks, the small dead prawns scraped of the deck and back over the side. So the letter sent is as follows.

Dear sir,

As always I enjoy your focus and profile articles but there were several “opinions” put forward with little backing of either science or observation regarding the use of mobile gear on the inshore fishing grounds of the west coast.

I appreciate the fact that Mr MacInnes is a hard-working representative of the WIFA but his sweeping statements referring to ploughing up the seabed is equivalent to that of ploughing one’s croft in order to harvest the produce leaves one open to ridicule.

One wonders how nature managed to survive and reproduce so plentifully in the past before she needed the help of the mobile sector now.

The MPAs were always going to be opposed by fishermen who fear their way of life may be altered or even stopped but the evidence is emerging from closures like Lamlash Bay and the Isle of Lundy where marine life is rapidly recovering from the constant over fishing of the last half century.

Lamlash is being surveyed at the moment and they are finding up to five times the lobsters and a doubling of their size prior to closure.

One can analysis the Broad Bay closure in a different way in that it was so degraded prior to its closure and the continuous overfishing on its boundaries has held back any possible recovery.

We are only starting to understand the connectivity of the marine environment. The hope is that this has been considered in the placement of the MPAs

To say that anyone is making money at any given time is not to say they are damaging the marine environment through these self-same money-making practices.

Even now as the creel fishery makes a modest rerun it is reliant on a high price for a scarcer commodity, no way to continue a sustainable fishery.

The imposition of the MPAs must be going in the right direction as we are now hearing from the SFF on how terrible they are.

I cannot help but compare Bertie to the Mr Cameron our PM when I listen to him discussing his concerns the impact MPAs will have on the remote west coast communities. I may be doing him a disservice but I find him so insincere as I do when the PM talks of the “poor”.

Finally back to the ploughing of the seabed, (sorry can’t help myself).

How does your neighbouring crofter feel when he sees you ploughing up his hillside, ripping up your fences and going through your tattie patch leaving a trail of destruction behind, only to come back next year to do it again?

I have always remembered reading an article by Torcuil Critchon who, when writing about the ploughing argument, said that you did not have to cut down the apple tree to harvest the apples.

Since we are so keen on analogies, would it not be better to stop chopping down the orchard and plant some new trees for a future generation so they can crop some apples?

The sooner we get back to more passive fishing methods on our inshore waters the better for the environment and economy.

There has been a lot of destructive practices carried out on the marine environment since the 80s but nature can recover despite us.

It would be good to give her a helping hand.

yours Ali Macleod.

A little surprised that there was space to publish as the WHFP is going through an upheaval having ditched two high-profile columnists in a couple of weeks. Maybe it could have been done less awkwardly but it may be a sign of the times. The fading Presbyterian culture of the Highlands and the old tribalism of Labour verses SNP whether right or wrong is being replaced by a more consensual acceptance of both spiritual and political views. Again whether one agrees with their politics Mhairi Black openly saying that she would welcome support from the Labour benches to help her constituents and John Finnie was saying the same earlier this week. Many folk are getting sick of the tribalism of the past and I fear that some columnists were keeping that alive.

That’s done so back to the humdrum of a busy Inn and fishing. The weather has been very helpful in that there has been a couple of quiet days


enabling me to get round all the creels and again there has been a decent catch. Not many rafts of guillemots and razor bills about this year.


To go back to the MPA argument I hauled a fleet of creels that were about 100 metres or so inside a thirty year old MPA, the BUTEC Range. Although you shoot on the line of the Range boundary


the current combined with a strong tide can take the gear just inside. When the fishing is good it can be exceptional on the other side of the line. I do not set up photos of creel catches and this is not scientific but this may the way ahead.


Certainly the New Zealander fishermen think so. Both red snapper and cray fisheries are healthy following their decisions to set up their no fish zones. Opposition like we are finding now when first proposed on their coast line. So the quiet days and busy nights meant I was not too concerned about a windy day


and mending creels readying my last fleet for the summer quota.


Now I have to start taking them in for a wash. The endless cycle of the creel-fisherman. So by the afternoon, tired and over to Shieldaig for a much-needed massage. A few strains and pulls to be painfully sorted out and felt very “out of it” by the end of a long hour session. Deep sleep o the couch before getting the tea on, simple pasta, garlic, cream and wine dish with langoustine tails and mussels thrown.

Almost forgot, they have found another three bodies in the Old Estate Office. Seems the number is up to three and there are signs of trauma to the bones. The age of the bones is now going back in time possibly clan or Viking fisticuffs. PC Dominic has been stood down as the perpetrators are no longer understood to be around.


Comments on: "Creel verses Trawl." (2)

  1. Wow what a great Letter Alistair to the HFP Good to hear you sticking to your informed principals. I like the analogy of the TATTIE PATCH

    The finding of the skull and more bones has given me some meat for a new children’s book… watch this space xxxLiz x

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      Not received quite so well in all quarters but as long as we remain civil about it and keep discussions going we should get somewhere. Good on the kids book, interesting.

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