So the morning half three start under the belt and through in Inverness still in the dark, only able to imagine the colours rather than see them. The train journey did not feel long as I slept most of the way. As we got into Edinburgh at ten I had a bit of time before the meeting. It was put back a couple of hours but after I had booked the train tickets. The wander down The Royal Mile was very pleasant in the autumn sun. Checked out the Parliament, wandered past the Indy Camp and over to Salisbury Crags. Heard in the passing that the response from the Camp after losing their court case was to park another car by the caravans. The climb up the hill was stunning and Edinburgh was resplendent in the autumn sun. Looking across to the castle,
seeing the old alongside the new, so different from back home.
The old and new side by side, in fact more them and us. Holyrood Palace just across from Holyrood Parliament. One lodged in the past and the other looking to the future.
The Crags were lit up looking through the courtyard of Murray House.
Time flew by and made for the cafe where over time the others came in. Just thinking that we had a good spread of knowledge from the east coast, west coast, diving and creeling, buying and legal were all round the table. Civil service joined us and off we went up a maze of stairs to a meeting room where we met with Fergus Ewing. This was our first meeting since he had taken over the brief from Richard Lochhead. The brief has been split and Fergus has rural affairs and connectivity. I had a good feeling about his reaction to what we had to say. He appeared to take on board our common sense views. Bob Younger gave a background summing up of how we have arrived at today’s position, citing the Cameron commission through to the Inshore Fisheries Act of 1984 and its detrimental effect of today’s harvest. Some interesting facts emerged that show how skewed the position is when it was pointed out that ground available to trawling constituted 96.3% of the total worked, this was an east coast statistic. Basically shows that the static gear industry is doing a pretty amazing job with such a little share of the resource, not only to survive but in many cases are thriving. And still the crab gear was being towed away to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. How much ground does the mobile sector need to operate at profit? We also pointed out that the static gear sector needs so little of the resource compared to the mobile sector as we receive so much more for our catch, landed in better condition all live with little or no discards. On the west it has been a relatively profitable summer in both sectors. Although unscientific, I would suggest that this is connected to less effort, certainly in our area. The drastic diminishing of the inshore trawl fleets from Mallaig to Ullapool must be having an effect. Also having 3/4,000 creels less north of the Crowlins.
We all managed to say our piece and it did seem well received and two suggestions were taken on board. The first was that towing away static gear was to become a criminal offence and a pilot scheme for spatial separation was back on the table. One could see the civil servant beside Fergus was becoming quite agitated recognising how the mobile sector is going to react to these proposals. I could see Fergus was reacting in such a way that customers do when they are told a few observations on the fishery and why they have so enjoyed such a good meal of creel caught langoustine. He was told about the filmed recovery in the Wester Ross MPA after only a year. Valuable breeding grounds being left alone to allow regeneration to continue both in and outside the area. But realistically politics enter a common sense argument and his next fishing event will be the SFF Annual dinner where the picture painted will be with many different colours. I managed to get my Norwegian anecdote at the end. To relate it again, kayaking in the Lofotens, I was speaking to a fisherman helping his partner run their campsite during the tourist season. We talked fishing, prospects, conservation and the likes. I mentioned that you can trawl up to the Scottish shore and I will never forget the look he gave me. He just lost interest in the conversation and you could tell he thought what an idiotic way to manage such a valuable resource. So the meeting ended on a positive note and renewed hope mixed with the usual realism.
Back up the road/rail and home by ten. Time enough for a mug of tea at the Inn and believe it or not a game of poker with a couple of ciders at 6/7 and yet another goodbye. No intention of fishing on Wednesday so no pressure going to my kip at 1.30am very, very tired.