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

Posts tagged ‘IFG’

Inspiration in the Rain.

Driving west of Achnasheen in the lashing rain at 10.30 last night on my way home from Ullapool the old head was brimming full of conflicting thoughts having just come from Ullapool via Inverness. Often think of Angus Macrae of North Strome saying very eloquently about how he wanted to see lights in the dark glens keeping him company for the way home. Fourteen hours earlier the day started as usual with Dougal and Co heading out for their first jaunt of the day and a quick breakie. Unbeknown to them it was going to be a longish day for them as Alison was away to Arisaig to a little gathering of LDO guys who are going to talk about what sounds like boring things such as di minimis rules on grant funding. These items sound boring but are going to be critical in the ongoing work within our communities. For me and the Dougal crew it was off to Inverness and an IFG meeting at Great Glen House. Set off in good time but came across a wee problem in that the van coming down had a bit of a brake problem, alright for me but not for the van as, although missing me, ended up securely in the ditch.


To cut an everyday saga short half an hour later they were pulled out and everyone’s day continued. Not a cross word was said and all were just concerned with sorting out the accident. Slightly hairy moment when the van shot out across the road and up the opposite bank. Only in the ditch for half an hour, good Applecross help.


Ended up being twenty minutes late for the meeting but it was fairly interesting despite itself. There is still a feeling that we are not being listened to very well….the opening up of the west coast grounds to squid trawling and this strange hardship fund that is only designed to compensate poor trawler men for not catching enough prawns this year are two very bad examples of badly thought through policy from above. As often happens the chat over the lunch sandwiches elicit the most interest for me. Brief chat with Richard but longer one with Nick and Beth about data collection and luckily it turned out that Beth’s phd was done on nephrops in Torridon and we had a good chat about the survival of returned berried langoustine. If I was told by the scientists that it was a pointless exercise I would be so disappointed but would have to change my practise. Fortunately for me there is no known science that tells me by returning the berried female is detrimental to the returned one or the fishery as a whole.

After a wander about the buildings with Dougal,


a look across to the south of the growing town,


a trip to the Dog shop and Wholefoods, it was back on the road to The Strathpeffer Pavilion.  On the way into Strathpeffer I had to stop as a field, with no apparent reason to me, had hundreds, possibly thousands of birds landing and taking off on the land.




Important purchase of two tickets for the Treacherous Orchestra gig on the 25th of April. Bit strange as I do not what I am going to do this afternoon, dogs check out the Pavilion http//strathpefferpavilion.org/ grounds, a chat and catch up with Andrea, a lovely bowl of  potato and leek soup and up to Ullapool. Mid afternoon in the Highlands means the lights are on early.


Stopped in at Leckmelm but no lights on. Plenty of time for a fish and chips sitting on a bench across from the pier on a windy and cool november evening in Ullapool. This is living the real sensations of life up here.


The mutts got plenty of exercise and had a good night-time tour of the wee town, little surprised how many houses had no lights on. Lots of reasons, I am sure, but hope second houses was not one of them.

So to the Ceilidh Place and Lesley Riddoch. www.lesleyriddoch.com/blossom-book-tour.html Huge amount of informative chat and ideas about the Scottish nation, how we seem to view ourselves, how for some reason we listen to people who tell us we cannot do it ourselves. Many comparisons looking across to the Scandinavian countries and looking at energy or banking whether it be Norway or Germany. 41 energy companies in Germany and in Sweden the price of energy went down due to the 2008 crash, obviously because there was lots of spare capacity about, but in our energy rich country what happens….the opposite. We do have a lot to learn from other people and countries and have to cast off the “it won’t work here attitude”. Interesting statistic from Norway when they passed a law giving landowning Norwegian men a vote in 1814, 45% qualified. In 1832 the same happened in Britain and 5% qualified. We have suffered inequality for centuries. I do not have the mindset of wanting more so do not understand it but those who have vast lands and wealth their whole existence seems to be occupied in either growing or at least keeping it. A little of this came out at the IFG meeting when one of the organisation representatives became quite shirty when it was suggested that a more equal share of a quota was suggested. It was the “hard work” ethic that was introduced and the example of some one wanting a croft you do not go to the big farmer and take some of his farm for the crofter. Looking at it another way what he was really arguing for is the farmer to have more than his needs while the potential crofter is to have nothing. How we address this growing problem in our society is going to be crucial, but we either accept the present situation or look at way to redress the imbalance. These imbalances were created with the full backing of changes in the law in the past by those who directly benefited, maybe now it is to be redressed. An interesting example Lesley put forward was the impoverishment of the quality of the land over centuries of overgrazing and told us about a small project carried out by Ron Greer and Derek Pretswell www.andywightman.com/?p=3291. But more importantly was the project that involved planting of 100,00 hectares that would now be a community asset and Dunkeld, Birnam and surrounding area would be carbon neutral. Failed because they did not have the right “qualifications” for the project. Their Loch Garry project counted for nothing despite them taking land that was sour and turning it into a rich soil structure now supporting lots of wild life habitat. Planting lupins was one of the keys in returning nitrogen back to the depleted soil. Met a teacher who is involved with the Ullapool St Ayles skiff and a great chat about the community aspects of this. It will happen here.

Struggled to leave as I knew, as usual, there would be good craic after and would have to use one’s brain in keeping up a banter with these guys. So after many offers of Highland hospitality from Jean, the offer of a room to a flask of coffee for the journey home, had to be turned down and I made my escape, but not before meeting Noel outside and having a chat about fishing, SCFF www.scottishcreelfishermansfederation.co.uk/ and MPAs before turning down yet more offers of a place to crash.

So there I was driving through the rain with everything in overdrive, not the van as I followed a police car for twenty odd miles at a respectable distance and speed. Inspired, but knowing the huge problems of community work, realising that no matter what you do you will always be criticised, but aware that you are fortunate to know  some amazingly kind and considerate people. This with the Finlay Macdonald Band on the Ipod made for a “short” journey home.

And that is how I finished my day with a brief political/land /nation discussion, the good fortune we have to live in such a place amongst wonderful people. So important never to lose sight of this amongst all the hassles and carp of daily life.

Fishing in Fort William.

Another combination day where fishing was followed by a shift at the Inn. 400 creels up with the last two kept on board for washing and looks like I will have plenty of time to sort them looking at the forecast for the next few days. Slightly more prawns but still poor. Reports to the immediate north and south are the same. Pleasant evening at the Inn with it being not too busy, guys still waiting for tables and a little nervous about residents mostly coming in at 8pm as all the tables full. But as usual the Boss had every thing in hand. As it is becoming slightly less busy you can spend a little more time with the customers. Like the couple from Inverness who got married this week, the Swiss lady with her Cypriot partner, the two girls from Huddersfield.

This morning after a couple of phone calls last night it was a nervous drive over the Hill as a change of plan was in the air.


The weather forecast had obliged and changing my MOT to today worked as I managed an all day fishing yesterday and the expected southerly arrived on time. The change of plan was, instead of going to Kyle as planned, a trip to Fort William for an IFG meeting, picking up with Duncan and Bally at Auchtertyre and Avernish had been arranged. This almost worked but no van at the garage to get me there so the MOT is down for another day.

As hotels go, where the meeting as held, it was a fine example of 70s architecture but sitting beside a smart church of indeterminate religion.



The meeting got under way and yet another new civil servant introduced. For us there were two main items of interest on the agenda but also several things were said that gave cause for concern in their emphasis like the “closed areas” review. Areas that had fishing restrictions were to be re-examined to see if they were to remain closed. It was pointed out that no “open unrestricted areas” were to be reviewed for possible closure. We, as the wee boys, are always suspicious of agendas that are predetermined in what used to be smoke-filled rooms. The first big issue was we were presented with a fait accompli. The west coast is going to be opened up to squid trawling, a practice which takes place at night in shallow waters…. a recipe for disastrous gear conflict. The prawn gear has already been pushed off the deeper water through pressure by the prawn trawl and is up on the shallow water. This along with crab and lobster gear already in place does not appear to us to be a very well thought out policy change. And we have not even started to think about the environmental impact on shallow water regeneration areas. Think of a species and area that has not been trawled and trawl it. A bizarre policy that suits the few at the expense of the many. The three of us put it in the strongest terms possible that we thought this was a poor idea, unconsulted, and at the very least the trawlers need to have monitoring equipment on board so the creel men know who has towed away their gear. The second issue was a strange one in that a £3 million hardship fund has been set up to compensate TRAWLERS for having a hard time. Again the threesome weighed in firstly pointing out that the more sustainable creel fishermen should surely be entitled to a hand out as well to tide them over tricky times. Actually I sort of suggested why should any fisherman get a hand out as we are the builders of our own misfortune. Why should we be like the bankers and go running to the State after we screw up our own livelihoods.? The East coast chappie and the Govt officials went a bit quiet as I do not think they had come across anything like this before. Guys actually turning down handouts from the authorities, maybe the landed folk should have been there to hear what real folk say about how to deal with hardship. It was good fortune but this week I had a pub conversation about how a stock shows on a graph, the peaks and troughs, and how, if you super impose another graph on top you get the same but with a time lag. The effort will gradually decline as the stocks do and the graph comes together as the effort decreases to match up with the stock availability. And all a hardship fund will do is keep more boats on the water catching too many prawns distorting the correction between stock and catching effort. A better managed fishery would not have these sweeping troughs but that is for another era of a more sensible fisheries policy. We can only live with what we have and eventually, like on land, that is going to be a community fishery.

So after lunch it was back into the car and up the road, discussing what was said and as usual thinking of things we should have said, but the general consensus was that the meeting went well and we put our points forcefully but respectfully and in a heart-felt and non threatening way. A lesson for one or two people I have come across over the last year or so. Good company today and informative, pleasant with a mild sense of having done something worthwhile. Back home, a stop at the Inn to see how langoustine stocks were holding out and then the inevitable call to the Filling Station for a reboot. Good to have your efforts appreciated.


Petitions and Barnacles.

When we went down to the Scottish Parliament to give evidence to the RACCE committee it was in support of a petition put forward by Torridon Nephrops Management Group to try to get government to legislate on a gentlemen’s agreement which was slowly unravelling. That is to cap effort within a creel only zone and also to extend the zone so as to relieve some of the “honey pot” effect of even more creels coming into a limited area. The Committee has decided to keep the petition open for more discussion, research and views which has to been seen as a positive move in that they have not closed it down or dismissed it. This along with creel numbers linked to spatial management does seem to shine a little light on our declining fishery. Got an email at the end of last week giving me the details of a hake long-line and where they used to fish in the 60s. Maybe just maybe this will be the future again and open up anew but better controlled industry of sea angling and supplying west coast hotels with west coast fish. This would have the added benefit of relieving pressure on the langoustine stocks. Marine Scotland, our civil servant overlord, has conducted a survey and there is a desire to cap limits on creel numbers but not to see their livelihood towed away by the mobile sector. In the MS response to the petition they have stated that they have commissioned an independent review of inshore fisheries management and creel only zones will be part of this and will be reporting in October.

Mid morning the Varuna came alongside for a wash and anode replacement.


Generally it is pretty clean as I had it copper bottomed by Stevie and Fred at the Kishorn Yard, three years ago now. There is a bit of moss/grass growth but no mussels or barnacles, only on the propeller and keel which is probably the knot of speed I was losing.


Great benefit is I do not have to anti foul so it is just a matter of waiting for the tide and away we go.


A pleasant hour and a half spent in the garden weeding and seeding some more carrots, lettuce, rocket and lettuce. Garden looking nice and wild, a few bumble bee clinging on to the ox eyes and aquilegia probably done in by yesterdays poor weather. This evening and most days it is noisy with bees and feels great. It certainly is not a suburban one and would probably be told off for taking the value of the neighbours property down!


Passed Judith in her mountain gear heading for Ardban with Robert and brother, Chris…recovery continues.


And with a little interlude to help a damsel in distress by changing her flat it was off down the road to take the Varuna back out to the moorings.An hour tidying up some of my rubbish and float off tied up and home for a quick shower before heading out to the Walled Garden for a meal with Kenny and Richard to discuss the response to the Petition and a chat about the Friday’s IFG meeting. Very handy having some one like Richard who has a wealth of knowing political systems and the language and how to respond in appropriate terms. Garden was looking great, in particular the lavender,


and fine sets of antlers were on display in the field by the Big House drive.


Full on day despite not fishing or at the Inn.

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