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

Posts tagged ‘eden court’

Fishing Conference and a Lopi

Good to get out fishing again. It really has been too long but on the other hand I think I will always have a little advantage in that taking some time off usually means I am looking forward to being back on the water . Very fortunate that I am blessed with a way of life and that I don’t work but just do stuff, one of which happens to be catching langoustine that people seem to enjoy eating. Being at the Inn is in the same category with a slightly stricter timetable. Bit of a cold and grey day and long one as well. A 9 to 5 on the water hauling 400 creels on your own and you know you don’t have to go to the gym for a “work out” in the evening. The reward is a meal of squat lobsters and langoustine tails in a sweet chilli sauce,garlic,ginger and a bit of soy sauce served on a bed of rice. No labels needed to tell you they were 100% langoustine as seems to be the current problem in some super markets these days.

Today we headed off to Inverness to the first ever Inshore Fishing Conference at Eden Court. It was my new Lopi’s first outing and very appropriate for the day as the fishermen had to be distinguished from the suits.


I thought it was very in keeping with the Scandinavian Noir I have been reading and watching lately. Now that Borgen has finished Saturday evenings are bereft, although our satellite has now gone down and contemplating not fixing it. Will miss a bit of live rugby, or not maybe. It has been quite a few years now since I have owned a Lopi, I had them 20 years before they became fashionable, my usual time scale regarding fashion.


Anyway back to the Conference. I always go to these events with a healthy cynicism and a little hope and am often right. The problem the fishermen on the North west have is with the introduction of the IFGs we all thought this heralded a new dawn and some common sense was going to be applied to our fishery. Unfortunately what we thought was the start of a long road Marine Scotland decided was a culmination and paid off our Co-ordinators and left the fishermen puzzled and not a little disillusioned. It will take more than a Conference to turn this feeling around although the news that Richard Greene will be our new Chair is excellent, an ex-fisherman and current Councillor. Heard a speech from the fisheries Minister which if carried through will be positive, only problem is there are no reintroductions of mobile restrictions on the table but give it time…… Morning workshop was good and was about locally managed fisheries and a lot of sensible discussion took place, the need for more science based data, look at the size of the stock as well as the quantity, stop reflecting the value of the catch in monetary terms as a true indicator of the health of the fishery. High prices can distort the true nature of the problem. We have to recognise the fishing effort has increased dramatically in order to land the same or indeed less catch. Lunch was ok but the paella either had trawl caught prawns in it or they were overcooked as you could hardly get them out of the shell. In fact I did not bother trying, being a spoilt fisherman from Applecross. The problem I have with that is it should not have to be the case. Everyone should have the chance to eat the real thing not the mashed up product often presented. If I did not know any better lunch was wonderful, unfortunately eating out struggles to match the Applecross eating sensations. Afternoon workshop was a waste of time for me, understandably Marine Scotland want consensus and agreement and feel regulation should be a last resort. But my experience of last year when several creel boats saw a trawler towing my gear, tried calling him up with no response and then watched him leave the area with my gear in a mess leaves you with a bad taste. My idea of consensus is that skipper is not fit to be on the water and should lose his right to fish if that is the lack of respect he shows to fellow fishermen. Marine Scotland should exercise their convening powers and legislate these people off the water in order to allow other less aggressive fishermen to carry on their livelihoods in peace. Maybe it is not all bad in that we are attending a Conference  about inshore fishing and are at least starting to talk about some of the problems.

Had a chat with our local MSP for a while and ended up chatting about the last year or so both on land and sea and it made for some interesting thoughts. We did wonder why the SLE submission to the Land Reform Review Group should not be in the public domain, mine is not but for obvious local and personal reasons.The wry comment was made that maybe things would be better if there were 35,000 members of the SLE instead of 3,500. It appears that the lack of a snowblower in Applecross has been put to the top of the Scottish political agenda mainly through the efforts of Ali, our shopkeeper, who used the opportunity to discuss the problem with as many politicians as he could when down in Edinburgh picking up first prize from The Countryside Alliance Village shop competition in the Scottish final. Almost expect a new blower being delivered next week, but joking apart hats of to Ali Seonag and staff for a great wee village shop.


The trawl and Hillfolk.

Back from a little holiday in Inverness which started at 5 o’clock yesterday evening. Spent the day delivering a batch of prawns to Loch Ness Inn and ended up having a little run around trying to match up regulators to the right bottles to set up their barbecue for the ‘Torch.’ Then it was off to Inverness for a rapid run around picking up food and parts for the boat and myself ending up with keeping an appointment at half four. At the moment any time I sit down for more than five minutes I fall asleep. Inverness was pretty chaotic as there was Rockness, Curtis Cup, and the Olympic Flame. Although I had to park across town none of the above bothered or interested me. It was a great curry and to Eden Court to see Hillfolk Noir, a simply brilliant four piece band from Idaho. They rattled song after song off in a sometimes quirky style that included saw and washboard. Mix of bluesy. bluegrass americana and they worked hard. As the audience was low we got to speak to them at the interval and they were ‘sweet’ people, not used to the polite appreciation that we gave them.They were more used to raucous venues back home where they play over people drinking and enjoying themselves. Drove home arriving at midnight still smiling both inside and out. This for me is the sign of good music.

The later half of the week involved the usual Inn work and fishing with a little sleep in between. The fishing is going a little better although the poor way we carry out our custodianship of the sea became apparent on Wednesday/thursday. I have always made it clear that dredging and trawling should not be allowed in inshore waters and everything I say about it is backed up by science and anecdotally, that is observation by the fishermen themselves. Even the trawler men cannot tell me where the fish are now they have been allowed to trawl up to the shore. I can they have been caught by the prawn trawler at an immature size while they try to catch prawns. The ratio of them having to catch and kill 9 kgs of sea life to get 1 kg of prawns to market has never been justified to me. I have always tried to de-personalise the problem as we all know each other and I always have and will say that the prawn trawl is probably the worst thing that has happened locally in my lifetime. I always remember a conversation with a Norwegian fisherman/campsite owner about fishing both in his waters around the Lofotens and back home. It was really interesting until I told him that we allow our trawlers up to the shore and he looked at me almost with pity in that our government could be so ignorant and the conversation died a death. It does make you think when you get reactions from an informed outside source like that, although I fully agreed with him. On Wednesday two hundred yards away I find it slightly depressing that a trawler can quite legally tow past your gear.

It is important not to personalise the problem and I went to sea for the first time when this skipper had a creel boat in the 70s and I have every respect for him as a decent guy but what he does means that I no longer put creels on the ground that he and others have towed on until the end of the year as the ground will have been degraded so much that it needs that amount of time to recover. On thursday I got a radio call from another Applecross boat saying that he had just rescued one of his fleets that had been towed into on of mine. He had to leave most of his rope which was tangled up in my gear and just cut off his creels. So I have something to look forward to next week. To minimise my lost time I have to haul it last fleet of the day and it has to be flat calm. I lose fishing time as these creels will not be working and I have little time as it is to waste sorting some one else’s carelessness or malicious intent. Some trawlers actively want and try to tow creels out of their way so they can have a clear go at the ground. We know the name of the trawler and he did not respond and headed of north without acknowledging radio calls. What a fine specimen he is and he probably sleeps well too. This is only a side issue, the gear lose, it is the destruction of the habitat that most bothers me and as long as it happens then we will remain well below our maximum sustainable yield with many jobs lost and not created. With Marine Scotland telling us two weeks ago that they only found out that there is a large static gear inshore fleet there is little hope in that direction. Fishing static gear on the NW of Scotland is certainly character forming and it is still worthy employment. The sea environment is very much something to fight about. Maybe the fact that Marine Scotland do now know about us and are prepared to meet us without the mobile sector shouting us down is a small step in the right direction. There are other static gear men now talking about a re-introduction of a three/six-mile limit on mobile gear to allow a recovery of inshore stocks. A no brainer for me but now gathering momentum.

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