Interesting the reaction when you put your head over the parapet. Briefly went onto a forum but it was brief. As regards the creel verses trawl for langoustines I follow the Calum Roberts line of a degraded environmental baseline. It is a generational degradation of the marine environment. Some of the best ways to tell the story is to talk to older members of the community, your parents and grandparents, elderly neighbours. I remember Danny Mor telling me about foul hooking salmon as they ran past Ardban. Foul hooking is just putting lines and hooks in the water and the fish running into them as they are swimming toward the rivers. Almost incredible to think that there were so many salmon and not that long ago. The 90-year-old who went out to get the cod for the village before lunch time. The herring nights stacked on Camusteel pier, falling over the edge from a high tide and northerly swell and so much herring about that there were some caught in the nets hanging over the edge of the pier. My grandfather would think there had been a disaster if he saw what is not in the waters off the Applecross shores now. We are reduced to catching bottom scavengers. Lovely tasting crustaceans but beasts that crawl over the seabed and eat the detritus that falls through the marine food column. If a young fellow starts up and catches enough for a decent wage he thinks all is well. What he should do is talk to the spirits of those who have lived and fished these waters to learn what we have fished out in the last 100 years. The forum shows up the same old, same old and just ends up getting very personal, best to stay clear for health reasons. The main objection I have to all the stuff thrown my way is that it is a positive decision to stay small, to earn enough and a little more, to leave some behind for the next generation. To stay small-scale and earn a decent living fits the environment I live in. It is not just about langoustines it is about a healthy marine environment. MPA type fish protection areas are being introduced around the world as other seafaring nations are seeing that the status quo is unsustainable. The fish marks around the Inner Sound are historic, of a time past, whether they are the haddie bank off Lonbain, the cod peaks to the south of the Crowlins or the hake hole off Rona. The argument raging at the moment is centred round the viability of each method, accusations and counter accusations of putting fishermen out of business, it is far bigger than that. There are not many current photos taken in Applecross Bay like this.
Where I would diverge from the mobile fleets opinion is the degradation was greatly accelerated just before the Inshore Fisheries Act of 1984 when the trawl poaching for prawns really took off. I went fishing a few times with my dad at the back of Kyle in the early 70s but already by that time the waters were getting such a hammering that it was only dog-fish that we were catching. Mackerel is the only catch of the day these days. It is not about division, about not working together, it is about treating the marine environment with more respect than we have done in the past. The west coast herring fishery was a classic case of mismanagement, boom and terminal crash as technology overtook stock regeneration. I have always thought the Highland environment is only able to cope with small-scale exploitation.Sticking with the small-scale unit, sometimes you feel you have to justify staying small. I have had the crewman and the 32 ft Cygnus and decided I am better suited to single-handed and have built the Varuna, locally, for that purpose. Said it so many times before that the best fishermen are not the ones catching the most or earning the top dollar but those that can leave for the next generation.
Back to Friday and a day at sea that now and again you have to suffer to keep the langoustines on the menu. The wind was a steady 4/5 and managed a 300 creel haul with a decent catch, stopping only to retie the vivier tank to stop it sliding across the deck. Hard work but satisfying although on the way home the engine raced a little. Hope it is dirty filter and not drawing air. This morning spent a couple of hours on board changing three filters and giving the deck a good scrub down. Dropped of some fine langoustine to keep the Inn going over the weekend.
Advantage of my creel fishing and marketing is I can keep a steady supply of live good quality langoustines for almost ten months of the year.Sticking to the small-scale operation, after checking I was not taking up ground I shot a long-line with the intention of growing some queen scallops and mussels for home consumption.
It will not be a permanent feature. I hope to resurrect some of my latent knowledge when I had my own scallop farm in the 90s. we found the king scallop spawning changed somewhat and we did not catch the spate in commercial quantities so stopped production and concentrated on fishing. It was probably the greenest way I have worked the sea, catching spat that would have rarely survived in the wild and by the time the scallops were sold/eaten they had spawned at least twice so adding to the marine environment while taking a wage and enjoying good, healthy food. Plan to try to catch some spat this summer but meantime take spat
off the creels
and put them into trays for on growing.