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

Posts tagged ‘Calum Roberts’

Fishing…missed opportunity?

The list on Tuesday’s post is on hold until tomorrow. The weather is really bright just now but is tempered by a west to southwesterly gale. Good  walking day, an occupation essential for a bit of clarity of thought and conversation and there are certainly lots of these. Yesterday I was through in Inverness meeting with fishermen involved with formulating a management plan to try to improve the inshore fisheries of our coast. There were very few positives to take away. Marine Scotland,the government agency responsible for fisheries have decided to terminate the contracts of our local coordinators in the belief that their job was done once they had presented our plan for approval. Every one else round the table was under the impression that we were just starting to sort out the mess our waters are in. I have a fairly pessimistic view of our local stocks and is based on having a historic view of what preceded our fishery. Mentioned it before but one of the best books I have read about the current state of our seas is written by Calum Roberts and he explains in simple layman’s language the term a ‘degraded environmental baseline.’ This put simply means that a young guy coming into a fishery makes £700 a week thinks everything is ok, but when you talk to the previous generation they will say what it used to be like, and even their experiences would be enhanced further by fore fathers. What generations of fishermen have done  in a very short space of time is fished down through the various stocks. That has resulted in the absence of a local herring fishery, a haddock, cod, whiting fishery and we are now catching crab, prawn and lobster which are bottom feeders,beautiful eating, but the end of the sea food chain. It makes you think that I have spoken recently to an Applecross worthy who climbed up  the hill above the Bay and in 1948 counted 53 basking sharks in the bay. The level of life in the Inner Sound must have been awesome using the true meaning of the word. If I see one in a year I consider myself fortunate. When we sit round a table squabbling and having national government support with drawn from your positive proposals I always think on what it used to be and we should be embarrassed about the way we have gone about things regarding the sea. A little mini rant I know but it is frustrating when you believe everyone can be better off if the fisheries were managed properly. What industry ashore is it accepted that you destroy the future of that industry? That is what is being done by fishermen when they land berried prawns. I won’t even think about trawling today.

It was suggested several times throughout the meeting yesterday that one of the problems we are up against is the loss of power of the centre, in our case the civil service in Edinburgh. They seem to have realised that they have given a voice to the people who matter and who have a much more practical view on how their industry works, far more than a desk bound civil servant who lives 300 miles way. Does this threaten their jobs, which is managing the fishery? This got me thinking about the problems we are encountering on land as well and there are similarities, instead of distant civil servants we have to deal with distant owners and however well-meaning both can be, the distance seems to a crucial factor in their lack of knowledge in how certain lifestyle works that is alien to their day-to-day existence. Decisions are taken at the centre that have no effect at the source but impact on the daily lives of those living in the remote areas. To be fair, in as much as I can, I think it must be very hard for those people in power and control to give any of that up I think we have to question that authority if it does not deliver.

However, always to finish on a positive note I am off to take Dougal and family back out, feed them and the hens and plant shallots and onions before going off to work at the Inn. Life goes on, Alison having headed of to Dunkeld to take part in a housing conference. We do laugh at the well-meant tourist question, But what do you do in the winter?

Community essentials

Weather has been pretty poor again and threatens to be all week. Plenty to do although can space it out over the week. If by the end of the week a fleet of creels are mended, my hauler is back on the boat and working, I have dived for prawns, written the Community Company minutes, caught up with the Pier invoices and VAT, I’ll get to watch some Six Nations rugby on saturday. Already building up a bit of Scottish optimism. The wet stock reconciliation at the Filling Station and a break down has already been done today so we are of to a flyer. Working a couple of shifts later this week at the Inn. It looks an impressive list but there are lots of people doing similar stuff in the community. Village Hall committee was on tonight. I got bored doing the Com Company minutes so stopped to do a post. Funny I look forward to posting now although my technical abilities are fairly limited. The Vancouver post took ages but was enjoyable. The more you post the more you realise there is.

The creels will be done on thursday along with the hauler and hopefully my dive. When we fish for the prawns I store the boxes hanging over the side of the boat and in the past a couple have come free. I have circumvented this,or so I thought, by putting up to four boxes in a cage tying this up and hanging them all together. This worked fine until last week-end when a combination of a strong north westerly and a weak rope meant prawns ended up on the seabed. Found most of them yesterday but ran out of air and getting a fill of Bob so will be back in the water for thursday.. It was a bit of a sight me leaving the Inn yesterday zipped up by Mark in my dry suit to go off for my dive. A few wise cracks followed me out the door.

Off to Inverness tomorrow to another Fisheries management meeting. These meetings have been the result of a government initiative to bring a bit of structure to the inshore fishing grounds around Scotland. They have been progressing slowly but have hit a wall recently as the local coordinators have just been told they are not getting their contracts renewed. Very disjointed politics. I am not really surprised as I have dealt with the civil service so many times in the past and have not been impressed. The long view is not part of the equation when politicians get involved. At least the creelmen are at the table. Before the mobile sector could say whatever they wanted and up till now it has not been challenged. A bit different now and if what they have been saying was correct where are the fish. Trawling inshore waters does not work longterm. I have read Calum Robert’s book The Unnatural History of the Sea. Although it has a positive message at the end saying we have the potential to sort it out it tells of the mess we have made of the oceans. Meeting up with Andrea Nightingale on friday from the Geography Department of Edinburgh University. She has been around several times and is very interested in the community side of coastal communities. She is coming with Ruth Brennan who works at SAMS at Dunstaffnage near Oban and is also working with coastal communities, local knowledge of sea conditions etc. Very fortunate to meet with these guys who give you a different perspective and give you a fresh impetus on how you go about things.

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