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

Posts tagged ‘Marine Scotland’

Life’s Rythms and Flows.

Autumn is officially in the air. Two observations back up that direct statement, the first was seeing the first batch of cuttlefish eggs on a creel hauled Friday

and the second was the first sighting of tweeds at the Inn on Sunday. Both nature and human indicators that we have moved into the season where the heather and bracken show their best colours across the bare hillsides.

Just a short catch up post as I am off out to the Varuna to yet again empty my stock of langoustines. At this time of year, generally speaking, with either not having kids, yet to have them or now have them flying freely themselves they come to Applecross with a little more disposable income. This means although the numbers coming through the door are slightly down (not much) they are eating even more of the top class seafood that the Inn buys in and cooks so well. Over the last couple of days the plates of langoustine, scallops, crab and lobsters just kept coming out of the kitchen. Yesterday lunch time we took a bit of a pummeling, possibly due to the English Bank Holiday, with big groups in all day. Rough count of over 200 covers and not many of them burgers. Love the variety of people coming through the door. The Rabbies bus kicks it all off with passengers from across the world coming on their day tour of the Highlands, groups from across the Highlands to Europe, a group who had cycled across Scotland from Aberdeen raising monies for Charities They were NHS Grampian Doctors) for a while it seemed that  the Landowners and Estates had taken over the floor for the afternoon with three big estates represented, finish off the evening with a group of Hungarian NHS workers from Bristol and both ex and current BBC Radio Scotland presenters in.

Struck by a strong feeling of the flows of life and living throughout the last few days. Have looked out the window,  we are now seamlessly into autumn and all the annual events run by the different groups take place, are catered for, and we move onto the next group of money raisers or revellers. Meanwhile the flow of seasons continue as the brambles appear, the leaves on the willow changes colour and the first few are blown off, the apples, a huge crop this year, are red and falling. Beneath all that the flow of the Inn, where people come in, find a seat, eat good food and are sent contentedly on their way is like the flow of a stream wending its way through a woodland. There is sometimes a feeling like that on board when you are hauling creels, you arrive back at the hauler as the next creel comes up out of the water and you start the opening, emptying, rebaiting and stacking over again. Behind these rhythms is the hard work of the unseen and they would not exist without the factory of thought and organisation the takes place behind the Front. That is not to say you ignore all the variety that makes up such a rich flow, the colours of the strange and beautiful sea life

that comes up in the creels

and when the office has been given a make over

you just have to stop to absorb the beauty of the environment

you are fortunate to live in and have the ability to appreciate. Whether it is eiders or octopuses you have to accept that what makes it all so beautiful is all the nature that is existing and in some cases competing with your attempts at making a pound., catching langoustines

or growing mussels.

Now Lismore is calling after a meeting in Inverness with neighbouring fishermen and Marine Scotland.


“Away tae f**k ye”, Walls Everywhere

After a busier than expected shift at the Inn but still quiet, bit of banter about fillet steak, whether one was enough, an early night for a quick pack and hitting the road for Edinburgh on Thursday morning. This time for another fishing meeting. Quick nip up to the accountants with more papers before catching the train south. Sleep a lot on trains so short journey and arrived in plenty of time for meal and a few red wines. I always compare food to back home and when away realise fully how fortunate we are in Applecross. What probably used to be half decent food is now shown up to be really quite poor. The wine flowed just a little too freely and the morning part of the meeting had a bit of a recovery mode under way. I seem to be misjudging this alcohol lark, having read recently that the dry time between New Year and Burn’s Night is called the Scottish Ramadan.  Head of Marine Scotland was there for part of the morning.


Couple of local issues, seems prosecuting trawlers who tow away gear is going to remain almost impossible but there may be a closure of the Inner Sound to most mobile boats and set up a Community fishery. So some good maybe. Very frustrating to listen to civil servants saying they will help and take the fishery forward but when it comes to micro managing the gear conflict they wring hands. There was a prima facie case inside the Crowlins a couple of years ago and the punishment could be seen as a deterrent but Marine Compliance stated there was not enough evidence and that was without interviewing anyone involved in the incident. So maybe not a lot of movement there although there is a case slowly edging to court in the near future on the east coast. Although the proposed closure on the Inner Sound is not a complete closure as the boys from the south have taken a step back and included local mobile boats it is a step in the right direction and if done with permits and monitoring the closed area for improved stocks or otherwise. You keep going to these meetings and wonder sometimes what the point is but when you hear about the perilous state of the European fisheries you do not want to go down that road. Also there is a delegation invited over from Norway this Spring to the Inshore Conference at Inverness. Invited by Marine Scotland and will be good to hear what they have to say, having a four mile no mobile limit around their shores. Cracking cod and saith industry as a result.

So then it was onto Glasgow by train. A city that I am learning to like a lot with all its contrariness. The taxi driver was extremely suspicious of the address I gave him as it was in Townhead. Did not mean anything to me but he reckoned it was a rough run down council estate. Turned out fine and think it seemed more students than anything. Our first AirBandB did not get off to a good start mainly due to lack of mobile phones in the Macleod family. Spent a couple of hours waiting for Mohammed to turn up but it turns out he had already instructed us what to do by email that morning. Found out soon enough and Tom Russell was next on the list. Brilliant concert full of banter, humour and great music. Immense lyrics and finished with his now so prescient song, “Whose going to build your walls?”, written ten years ago. Think it was becoming a bit of a burden to him but it involves a great sing along. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9bgmi0I5hY. Next morning it was down town and Glasgow shows her many sides. Opposite on the door step is an empty bottle of Buckfast.


As we head down past the tower blocks on a beautiful morning we hear the band,


at first we thought Orange but it was  of the Irish persuasion.


As we were passing the Tower block we heard a scream of “Away tae f%*k ye”.


We just cracked up although living with that may not be quite so amusing.


The marchers certainly looked serious enough. In fact I did feel a little intimidated taking a few photos but got away with pretending to be a tourist. Into town, passing a beautiful mural,


lunch and back to the BandB for a quiet afternoon before the evening’s entertainment.

Hydro,Fishing,Not Boat buying,Meetings and Dirty Dogs.

Two days of brain frazzling activity commenced yesterday morning with a trip out on the Varuna and putting a reconditioned fleet back together. Bit lumpy on the Bay so just decided to go back to the pier and take the other fleet on board and spent the rest of the morning and into the afternoon putting it together. Not terribly pushed to go out at the moment and a day like today was very pleasant,


shooting that fleet and hauling 6 others for a few prawns. Flat calm and bright sunshine at least for the morning.


Managed to put up some advertising for the Hydro Share offer,


call into the site to see how things were going.


It changes every day now with the work advancing at a rapid pace.


Roof now on and the boys getting ready for another concrete pour on Friday, I think.


Had a wee scout around for the next load of wood and Dougal came along, not too sure what he was scouting around for but he was up to his oxters in it.


This not long after posing primly beside the advertising just a half hour earlier.

Over the Hill yesterday, only stopping to take photos showing the breaking up of the Bealach.


Going to be sent to HC Roads Dept to see if they can carry out repairs especially as the numbers of punctures is rocketing. This summer, even on a part-time basis, I must have dealt with 20 odd hire car garage pickups with flat tyres. They no longer carry spares so the local garages are cashing in big time. To Kyleakin via Waterloo to see a boat. A boat that was for sale at a reasonable price and there was a suggestion of a wee shared buy in. The timing was probably at its worst as I have invested a fair bit in the Hydro but was still very interested. The offer came out of the blue but these are usually the best. Lovely boat but baulked at the state of the engine. although assured it ran well it looked very rusted up and connections, filter holders, pipes and especially the gearbox looked very tired. The main feeling I got was a little trepidation and not excitement so decided to turn the offer down. At my stage in life I want less expenses and just reckon I was not ready for a few more bills. It did fit in with a dream of travelling up and own the western isles but leave that for my dotage. Have neither the time or inclination to do that now.

Then onto a three-hour meeting to deal with the MoD Range expansion and various other fishing matters through a sub group meeting of our IFG. The IFG seems to be extended to cover the whole of the west coast and sub groups dealing with local issues will operate within this new structure.At least we are trying to improve conditions and the environment we are working in. Although there have been repeated requests to meet with the MoD/Qinetic and information about the Range expansion has been greeted with a deathly silence. All we have been given is a meeting in Kyleakin five days before the ” consultation” finishes. Usually these take twelve weeks to complete, not this one, only seven. And we are provided with as little facts as possible. Mind you speaking to employees and sub contractors we are not the only guys left out of the defence loop. Personally my main confers are increased powers on passage over the Range, the doubling of the no fish zone and the out er sea area no  longer being a right to fish but we can on “permission” of the MoD, which it seems can be withdrawn whenever they need/want to. Lots of work done by Marine Scotland on our behalf to show the dire economic effects this expansion will have on the local economy. Left the meeting non the wiser and a feeling of foreboding for the future. Maybe this was another underlying factor that prevented me from investing in another boat.

Back to today and after a day at sea, the only thing going wrong was my outboard would not start, it was up to the Inn for an easy evening shift. The upside of the row back ashore I was accompanied by at least a dozen seals as I made the shore of it. At the Inn the HighlandEco turned up and the turbine is now in the turbine house. Have to nip up and take a few snaps at the is latest development tomorrow in-between fishing and front of house. Good chat this evening with the guys and with SSE on site either this week or beginning of next everything is on schedule. This along with good news on a good-sized investment this evening things are ever so slightly less stressful.

With so much on, the invite to Galway in Ireland at the end of the month may have to be declined although it would be a great excuse to have a couple of days with some like minded people who think the same way I do about the fishing.

Trip South

Home from Edinburgh after a fairly stress free couple of days that went very smoothly but it was just as well I had very little expectations. I left about mid-day yesterday and headed for Glasgow to pickup son No3’s kit from his ex-flat on Argyll Street. The weather was beautiful going through Glen Coe, past Loch Lommond and even into Glasgow.I do live in a stunning country. I made it to the flat with only one minor detour,getting back out was the problem. You have to understand I am a country boy, no sat-nav and a borrowed uncharged mobile. About half an hour later after visiting Central Station, Queens Street, Alan Glens school and the Caledonian University I eventually found an M8 sign and made it out of the mayhem that is a Glasgow rush hour. I did feel like a ‘teuchter’ from the Highlands…I suppose I am.

Through to Linlithgow and although I was greeted by a man touting a gun it turned out it was to do with chicken protection and nothing to do with my arrival. Lots of conversations sorting the world, Scotland and Applecross problems punctuated by a Thai curry of squats and prawns meant the evening flew by. The evening concluded with a walk round the small holding and saw the last episode of The Bridge…The Scandinavians do it well. A sound sleep on the couch after a planned assault on Edinburgh the next morning.

This is the first meeting of its type I’ve been to and to be quite honest there was nothing inspiring about it. We are a difficult group to manage but I did think the quote of the day was incredible. Bear in mind that he was talking about the static gear inshore fishermen and he is deputy head of the government department that is in charge of us.”To be fair,Marine Scotland did not know about you.” I did not pick up any actions taken forward from the meeting and I found a lot of the reps there were contradicting themselves, some saying stocks were as good as they have ever been but then saying they could not afford a day of. lots of stats about how much money the inshore fleet is making, but no recognition of the favourable exchange rates that distort the outlook. We are going to get a conference that is going to “celebrate” our industry. Sorry for being so cynical but I think making a mess of our environment is nothing to celebrate. There was lots of discussion about micro-managing various disputes and local difficulties but that was not what I travelled 600 miles for.The possibility of a static gear federation was discussed but not taken forward. It did seem that the important feature of the day was to set up a process where you were able to speak to the minister in charge. I did ask for a policy or a mission statement but was told there was not the data to support my claim that stocks locally are on the brink. White fish was not even mentioned so we are celebrating the process of fishing down the food chain and now all that is left is the bottom feeders. Speaking to a rep from the Clyde, a rather unsettling area to work. There were two students who carried out work on trawler discards over a 10 month period and he claimed even after a bit of positive massaging by Seafish they worked out through sampling,weighing and sexing the fish that 31 and a quarter million fish of 67 grams in weight were discarded dead in order for them to catch their prawns. That would be regarded as criminal in any other industry. So no I am not hopeful but I will still attend because that means I can moan about it.

Another amazing drive back up the road. I find as I get closer to home I subconsciously drive quicker, just to get home earlier. Another stunning sunset and a welcome from Dougal and family. He is adorable and it is just as well. They are getting their paws walked of as boys No 3 and 4 are home just now.

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?

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