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

Posts tagged ‘cormorant’

An AGM and a Cormorant.

The last two days have been a whirl of activity. Started off leaving the house with Dougal and Eilidh planning a relaxing day inside.


Lovely day though and if ashore would have been out with them.




There was always the threat of rain to the south west but it never arrived.


Headed north again, this time with a fleet on board. I do like what I think is called time and motion, basically for me it means doing something all the time I am on board the Varuna. For some reason I find steaming to and from the fishing grounds a little long and I am not getting bigger engines for bigger fuels bills so I find things to do. This is when I put together creels, or do a deep clean, or a bit of mending. Shooting off the fleet I went to haul the last two long-term lying fleets by the Range and with not too much problem hauled and shot them back. Got into a bit of a curfuffle shooting one of them going over the rope and having to cut and rejoin as it gets caught on the sounder, then you drift out of position and you get cross for being stupid.

On the way south a creel hauled up from only 60 fathoms had a surprising catch of five klonkers in it.


Distant memories when that would still be good creel but the rest of the fleet would have two or three in each one as well. Fishing was bearable and after picking up a companion it was for home by mid afternoon.






Although I was moaning a little about the travelling there is still so much to see and look at when do the little jobs on the way.


I always like to be set up for coming straight off the boat as soon as the engine is switched off. So I have my boxes tied, deck swept and the Inn’s langoustine ready for the dingy. Bit of an extra rush on Wednesday as it was to the Inn for an evening shift. Bit of extra pressure as the Boss was away wine tasting for a couple of days so organising people’s accommodation who were arriving for the conference as well as making sure people were seated where they wanted to be and got what they wanted to eat when they wanted it. All went well and it is the same with anything, the wee bit of prep done the day before is invaluable. It is like the kitchen, often asked how on earth they manage to get the meals out like they do, but it the hours of preparation and planning that goes into it before the meal is ordered. All went well despite a minor hitch that turned out not to be one by the end of the evening. So night ended watching and participating in a very small way in a game of scrabble and with a nationalist as well, albeit a British one. It was interesting how our views differed and how it was a lot easier to put my view forward with care and was able to refute lots of conceptions, very recognisable ones.

On Tuesday evening the Community Company held its AGM and there was a good healthy turn out. Never very relaxing events as a Director but may be that would make you slightly complaisant if they were. A good turn out of around thirty people and that with nothing really controversial in the mix. That with out and land reform on the agenda, mind you it never goes away. Great to see three new directors come on board and with still spaces available the two directors stood down, me included, were accepted back on. Good range of people representing the Community, one or two questions about the finances, and also about enlarging the post code area round the North Coast, which will be discussed and may well go ahead at an EGM as the Articles will have to be changed. There are now four-part time and one full-time employees of the Company, which considering how young we are is pretty amazing. What can be done without assets of millions and properties and vast tracts of land but just passion and will to succeed, that’s the future. The Conference next and it was a credit to be part of. Snooze needed before that story is told.

Nothing Much.

Coming back from the pier yesterday evening the light over Camusterrach was wonderful and went straight back down the road with Dougal and Co to take a couple of photos.


Probably one of the most lived in hamlets on the peninsula I really enjoy the light compared to the slightly darker Toscaig. On the way back up Dougal spotted a bit of movement and headed off to find June,I think, also checking out the light.


Just a little while later the moon appears over the Culduie ridge and settles in for it’s traverse across the front of the house.


This is all in the same place where 125 meals are served in an hour and a quarter. I know some people are uneasy about the number of visitors that come here but firstly why not share the paradise you live in and give every one a welcome and second, you can leave the hubbub behind with a five minute walk into solitude…best of both worlds, employment and tranquility.

Going by the forecast this is the last of the sunny, hot days although my forecast is good into next week….no wind. Plan to stay fit and breakdown free and try to catch a few prawns for the customers. A busy week ahead culminating in the Annual Applecross Games at the Campsite. There are always indicators as to what time of year it is here, Bikers, push bikes, Norwegians, Ashbys, Applecross Games, Fishing Competition/Raft Race along side the usual jobs one does, like washing creels etc. On the way out a cormorant is often surveying his domain from the rock on the Culduie side of the moorings.


Turned out to be quite a hard day as every spare second was spent tailing squat lobsters, never caught so many in a single days fishing. Most of my creels were on harder ground as the deeper water is not fishing well at all just now and the squats were not about as well….until today. Had to leave the Inn early before the prep room staff saw the shelling they had to do.


Went back to the pier to load up some creels on the rising tide as the Blue Mist is tied alongside, waiting repair. Picked up a mooring to strech it out but not sure that worked out as the bridal seemed to move as well. Tonights tea of squats in ginger, garlic with fried leeks and mushrooms served with new potatoes is meal equal to any I have had this year and living in Applecross that is saying something.

Fishing and Land Representations.

Nothing on the box to watch and lots of paperwork to plough through so it is Nickel Creek on iTunes and a post to write. It was good to get out fishing again and although a cold and crisp day to be at sea I do love both the company and solitude of nature on the Inner Sound. You are both alone and in company at the same time. Some days you are more aware of where you are and connect better with the environment you are in, indeed the activity of fishing is secondary and is only the vehicle to get you on the water. Sometimes the feeling you are being watched is more than a feeling.


After a long day sorting out tangles of creels, the gear having been left over the festive period and accompanying bad weather, the evening light show kicks in again. With the sun setting to the south of Raasay over the Cuillin there are endless variations at this time of year.IMG_1211

Yesterday a delegation from the newly formed Scottish Creel Fisherman’s Federation was to meet with Richard Lochhead, Fisheries minister, and I received this email from a representative from an Association further south of us and it is worth printing off as it says it all and more.

“Thank you for giving us this time to voice the concerns and aspirations of the Scottish creel fishermen.

When I was a young lad my father, along with thousands of others were employed in the herring fishing on the West coast, this fishery has now gone.

The white fishery which employed hundreds has now also collapsed there.

These West coast fisheries were not the victims of unforseen events or natural disasters, the cycle was the same both times, the fisheries became overdeveloped due to hungry markets and better technology, and stocks went into decline. lack of supply to the market made it viable for the larger and better financed vessels from elsewhere to fill the gap causing these fisheries to collapse.

The only fishery left on the West coast which employs significant numbers of people is prawns and there are signs that history is about to repeat itself. The prawns trawl sector on the West coast has been in rapid decline, and some rules are being relaxed which allow huge horse power from the East coast to compete with them. It appears from recent announcements that this situation will continue. We believe that the science behind the TAC which allows this is flawed, the West coast boats even in their heyday, have struggled to catch the full quota on their own. The added horse power will inevitably cause lack of stocks and force the trawlers inshore and into ever more conflict with the creel men, further damaging the ability of both sectors to compete in a difficult market.

Prawn creeling was going on sustainably and profitably on the West coast for many decades before the inshore zone was opened to trawling. since 1985 the ground available for creels has been shrinking due to the development of gear that can be towed on hard ground and also because some skippers take advantage of the fact trawlers are able to tow creels away with almost total impunity. We now have the bizarre situation in the NW where a vibrant and potentially expanding creel sector, which employs some 80% of the fishermen, is being hemmed in to around 30% of the available inshore ground, while also having no access to offshore grounds.

We believe that a majority of fishermen on the West coast now agree that the three-mile limit should be re-instated there, and we welcome, and would be keen to contribute to, any fair and independent review of this legislation and its social, economic and environmental impact.

We also favour o prawn permit system for langoustine, possibly based on the amount of days worked in a given period rather than weights landed.

Creel fishing has a built-in effort cap. You can only haul on creel at a time, regardless of the size and power of your vessel. Because of this inability to Oversize” it has remained a major employer round the coast.

For many fragile communities in the NW, creel fishing is the only employment. It is the aim of the SCFF that management of the inshore fisheries must put employment ahead of big money interests.

I believe that Government shares these aims.”

So good to see your views starting to be replicated and being presented to government. When Kenny and I went to give evidence to the RACCE committee one of the things I remember clearly was Kenny pointing out it was only thirty years ago that this current mess was created by implementing the Inshore Fisheries Act of 1985 and with similar legislation can easily be corrected.

Over the Hill this afternoon to take Ruariadh to the Kishorn Yard to catch his lift to Glasgow for a couple of courses and driving instruction. Forest of masts ashore where they are safe from the west coast winter storms.


Going back along the loch side it looks so quiet and it is good to absorb the quietude of nature to put all things in perspective. On the Highland News there was an article about the Land Reform Review Group’s submissions and David Cameron (the real one), chair of the Community Land Unit talking sensibly and rationally about the issues communities have to face across the Highlands. My own submission , I have had to request be kept private, as I cannot be bothered fielding the inevitable bricks. It is an interesting time we live in and reinforces my view that there is no such thing as the status quo. So I look across the loch….


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