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

Prawn Wars Critique.

Had a look at “Prawn Wars” this morning on iPlayer despite misgivings over the title. The general feedback is that it was not too bad a watch for people ashore but when fishermen have got together we pulled it apart. That is only to be expected as editing and emphasis is based on what catches the attention and holds it. I found Ian (Macduff) from Gairloch’s contribution fascinating and wished that there had been more of that. The fishermen I have spoken to thought it was a missed opportunity but then it was a Landward program and not ours and in that context it was very watchable. And also the fishermen I speak to in the main are creel men. Ian spoke of plentiful fishing in such a matter of fact way, of herring that would feed the village from one haul of his drift nets, of cod that would be split and salted for the winter and of langoustine the size of small lobsters caught up in his ground nets. No one is saying we should or could get back to these days of plenty but it should never be forgotten how much has been taken from the seas of our shores in the last fifty or sixty years. Unfortunately as is always the case , when times are plentiful the last thing we think about is the future viability of the stocks we are catching and this catches us out in stock after stock. I wanted more stories and evidence of prior to 1984 when the three-mile limit was abolished, but “You can’t always get what you want”. There was nothing startling throughout the program although one or two things made me smile. The dredge picking up a few scallops and some stones “not having any effect on the marine eco system. The role reversal of 1984 if the three-mile limit “which I doubt” is returned. There were creels men who invested money in the 80s to see a short-lived bonanza sweep away many a good living. Not only that but as pointed out, quite politely, in the program that there are no go areas for creels. And for me that is the bit that grates a little as we often hear “we should work together” from the mobile sector. Working together is we know our place, at least the place to put our creels. Up on the hard ground out of the way of the mobile sector whether there are langoustine there or not. Glad I was not used as what I said was in the same vein as Ian but with out the knowledge and practical experience he quietly talked about. Did find it a little ominous the statements about creels foul on the trawlers net, just cut and dropped to get clear, rather than respect for some one else’s fishing efforts and investment. The theme throughout the program, although not at the forefront, was the decline in stocks and necessitates the status quo is not an alternative. Very few people are confident that stocks are stabilising but are in fairly constant decline. The mobile skipper was confident enough to say that it was not overfishing that was causing this decline, that produced another wry smile. Today I was over giving blood and chatting about the program with a friendly fisherman and very similar opinions exchanged. A diver who would take a flattie or a skate home to his neighbours on request, so plentiful that he could take the requested size home as well. Eighteen months after the limit was done away with so were the fish. Now in the water with the camera he is finding it hard to find a fish of any sort to photograph. Meanwhile 10/16 big twin rig trawler have been scouring the Minch from Rue Rhea to the Butt of Lewis for the last month and a half. The effort on the stock is concentrated on fewer but larger and more destructive vessels. Although this is out of the scope of the Prawn Wars program it is another example of how our fisheries are being mismanaged, allowing the market to dictate to the fishery rather than the environment and fishery shape the market.

Back to the land and a very busy weekend was had at the Inn, long day on Sunday with bikes and more bikes coming over the Hill to make it bike city by 2pm.

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You are working away inside while all this is going on outside and only realise how many are there when you do a turn of the tables. Not many people eating out as the weather has not improved. There have been a couple of very pleasant sun downs though,

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especially the one on Sunday evening.

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Milton catching the soft light at the end of a long, long day, but worth it to see just that.

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Fishing has been slow to start this week and although the weather was half decent on Monday I did not venture out but turned into a recovery day and watched Sons of Anarchy’s last series. Maybe life is not as complicated as all that after checking out the bike scene in California. Mind you our discussions and meetings about the Hydro are not simple and still just on course. This as a result of another Board Meeting at The Walled Garden on Monday. Generally since the last election results we are really up against it regarding community work and trying to be greener. The latest budget has revoked the renewable energy sector’s exemption from the green levy exemption which is bizarre in itself but another burden on community hydro schemes. The one closest to us has worked out that it will be £2,ooo less going into their community as a result. We have began to lobby for a FiTs accreditation extension but are not holding our breath in the current political atmosphere. It is a bit like the fishing the status quo is not an option going by all the reports about continued climate change and warming across the world.

In from a short walk with Dougal and Eilidh after my trip to Kyleakin.

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In between the poor weather we are getting blinks of sun and calm with another couple of windy days coming up. Clare on Eilean Garbh has had little midges to contend with.

Comments on: "Prawn Wars Critique." (2)

  1. William mclean said:

    Hi.Just read you’re comment about the landward programme, prawn wars.I can agree on one or two point’s but on a whole your opinion is like most of the people who are ill informed and listen only one side.
    i have been told stories of lines floating with hake when boats went to haul on a monday.This happened in the range not far from you,you would expect there still to be plenty fish around as it is closed to trawling..another story was of a man hauling lines near Fortwilliam an running scared because he had caught devil fish,his hooks were full of them,turned out they were skate or rays.there’s none there now and the loch was never trawled.
    torridon is closed to trawling and has been for years,there was a marine steward accreditation for the loch but it was removed because it wasn’t get fished sustainably. Only creels in the loch.cant blame the trawlers.Also I have good freinds are creel fishermen and the often tell of times when the catch basking sharks,even whales you never hear much about that.
    As you may have gathered I own a trawler and have fished out of Mallaig for nearly 40 years.I am fed up hearing how bad trawling is and how good creel fishing is.Longlining was Great good for the sea,yet it wiped out the spurdog and skate.we can no longer land dogfish and only a limited amount of skate.
    I could go on but running out of time. WHY ARE TRAWLERS NOT ASKING FOR CREELS TO BE BANNED BUT CREELERS WANT TRAWLERS BANNED.
    I would talk to anyone about fishing, anytime.I hope you’re place is stowed oot with people wanting prawns.cheers

    • applecrosslifeattheedge said:

      First of all thanks for commenting and being pleasant about the issue. We have got different opinions and that is fine. I was involved in a long conversation with a good mate on Saturday who is on the north sea trawling and again a difference of opinion. He mentioned you as a matter of fact. My experience of trawling is limited to a couple of weeks thirty years ago with the late Charlie Macleod. I am sure things have changed with the catching methods of the prawn trawler but I still see the deck after the hauls and wondered even then how the marine environment could take what we were giving out. I think maybe you are hearing more anti trawl views now because the creel men are coming together a bit more and are less worried about repercussions on their gear. I am not too interested in the conflict side of things as, although I have loss gear in the past, it has been manageable. I am interested in the decline of the stocks over the past thirty five years I have fished and have talked to other fishermen who have seen this steady trend, with the occasional good patches. Going back to your comments. I really do not know enough about the fish population to say too much and can only repeat what I am told by people who have seen the changes and the major change has come about in the 80s as far as inshore fish stocks are concerned. Whether a place has been trawled or not the fact that the west coast has generally trawled may answer the query about Loch Linnie. Fish move are caught, plenty barn doors were caught here in the 80s/90s and there is little evidence of them now. Torridon lost their MSC status for a couple of reasons firstly they were given it on the condition the “gentlemen’s agreement” was made statutory to limit agreed numbers of pots in water and secondly the MSC symbol was deemed to have been diluted and not worth the large sums of money to try to keep the blue tick. The fishery there is still better than the surrounds, boats from Kyle, Gairloch and Portree steam to fish in the box. I may be a bit unusual on the creel side because I think we have to look to our own industry. I put back 100% of my berried catch, also gone part time partly because I can survive on a smaller but better quality catch and I have localised my market. I would be as concerned as you by the 2/3,000 creel boats, landing fours and fives and berries. I want to take some of my creels ashore but the problem would be why if all I see is the same if not more effort being replaced by the mobile sector. I thought the spur dogs were taken out mainly by the trawl in the 80s. Working down on the Sound of Sleat there was a convoy landing to Mallaig,tuesdays and thursdays, not unlike the herring a bit earlier. The size of the inshore mobile fleet compared to the 90s speaks for itself and the same may well happen to the creels fleet if we do not take action now. Even now the amount of single handed creel boats tell you more about the catch size than anything. And unusually I am in favour of well placed no fish MPAs, dangerous thing to say but I have fished alongside one for all my fishing career and it pays. Take care and I wish you well and thanks again for your comments.

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