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

Posts tagged ‘Richard Lochhead’

Got it Right this Time.

Beautiful start to the day,

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view off to the west stunning,

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on the bike and a brisk cycle to work with Gerry Rafferty on the Ipod. I often find music relevant to what happens around you and listening to one track on Night Owl, Get It Right Next Time, made me think of the meeting about the Broadband on Friday and not too happy on reflection. It is difficult to convey how decisions affect a whole community while the people making these decisions are only involved in one field and do not live in the community affected. Fine line between fighting one’s corner in putting your case across and seeming to be a bit too aggressive. But there are many guys living here that are passionate about this community and are working hard for it, so the obstructions coming from out with are very frustrating and in many cases needless. Threw in my penny’s worth and sent off an email to Richard Lochhead. Often say that I am going to do these things and do not quite get round to it but seeing all the effort so many people are putting into planning and discussing the future of the broadband networks it was the least I could do. Sean is now getting to grips with the little connection problems with our own network and setting up systems for paying for the service. Get to the Inn with “Take The Money And Run” playing, now this makes me smile as any one wanting to do this would not be living in Applecross. On my own in the bar today but back up around the corner if needed. Busy enough for me not to look at the clock much before lunch break and not too busy to stop for a chat or two. couple over from Forres and a nice couple down from Gairloch among others. The Lochcarron guys over as it was the first of the month and they were enjoyed by a pretty full bar. Have not quite got used to the six shift and almost went home at four. I really like the pipes and whistles and not long before six is there and home by seven after seeing the musicians off and picking up the new grand marnier ice cream for a late night snack. Switched on the telly and there on Ch5 is The Fifth Element. Not quite on the bucket list but I better watch it some time as it is the most talked about film at the Inn when selling ice cream, apart from Judith’s Spartacus. Tireder than I thought as I fell asleep on the couch watching some boring football and woke up about 6am. Realising that I have a good reason to be a bit groggy even when I am not fishing much. Between Inn, a meeting or two working on gear etc and paper work there is always a list to do.

This morning a high tide

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so glad there was little wind with it. Even without the wind I needed to be in gear for most of the day to keep up to the gear while hauling. Did not have a GPS as although the power was okay it was not picking up a signal so have to remember the ladder and it will be up the mast to check the connection on the receiver in the morning. The Skye mountains are looking good in this light with their skirts of snow glinting in the morning sun,

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almost said dawn but that is too early for me still.

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The first stirrings of Spring are starting to appear though and the first load for the Coillie Ghillie insulation works passed by.

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 Uneventful day with a little passing traffic later in the afternoon,

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sorted out the last recovered fleet with ease, fed a couple of cormorants, caught a few langoustine and headed for home. Must have been content as I was thinking even the seagull was looking good. Actually the feather pattern is quite beautiful,

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just forget the fact it is a young black back. Seeing the Boy Ryan hauling a fleet at the end of a rainbow, must have been full of prawns.

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Always good to see the last creel go back over the stern.

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Did not make enough money to run but did not make any mistakes so maybe got it right this time.

The Common Weal and Amazing Music.

Left about fifteen minutes late due to the Filling Station again.Rebooted it three times to no avail and the trip to Inverness was a little quicker than I would have preferred. Weather on the Hill not bad but you would know it was winter.

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Stop off into Fraser Auctions to pick up a rams head poker and made it to the AGM just after its start, missing very little.

As I am writing this a day later in Glasgow it has been great to look back on such a varied and really positive day. A couple of down sides in Inverness was hearing about the squid fishery on the East coast catching lobsters, fetching a poor market price as they are either dead or dying. Also many of them are prime females carrying berries, you do despair. The other downer was hearing about a Gairloch trawler towing of Barleyport with an Irish skipper and Romanian crew. Coastguard called up for tow as they had their own net and some one’s creels in his prop. He should not have been there as it was closed and of course he is destroying some one’s livelihood while he is at it. We suspect no prosecution and that allows these bullies to carry on. Another story of an email threat from a scalloper seemingly ignored. The threat was I am coming to tow and shift your gear or I will shift them for you. That is a breach of the peace but again nothing done. And it is always the same story, we are not all bad but there is always a rotten apple….easy solution is to bring back the three-mile limit, it used to work and can again. The meeting was extremely positive despite these idiots. There has been a huge amount of work done to get the Federation to where it is now. Financially healthy and now a voice that government listens to, and hopefully doing something about our problems. We did not have one before, it remains to be seen if they carry out any of our wishes. Managed to get a bit in about Applecross Community Company and our problems regarding Di minimus with the broadband. It was Richard Lochhead, himself , who brought the subject of broadband up. I was not just spraying the minister with problems. Did manage to bring up local government or lack of it as well and suggested for some people Independence would just be moving power from London to Edinburgh. Good to hear a politician who is in power try to explain his policies and aspirations. Got a bit of a buzz to hear him bring up the Common Weal. Bit of hilarity when one of the representatives wanted more fishermen and their voice being heard at the Inshore Fishing Conference being held in Perth. He wanted fewer people with Fairisles and beards, at which point most of the room looked across and saw a beard and a lopi, it was a close run thing. The guys mentioned something not complimentary about trawling and got several different kinds of laugh.

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We had a good wee session on berries as well and again the three-mile limit. Great to hear a buyer’s view on berried langoustine and lobster. Very few buyers talk the way James Cook does. Alistair was telling us about his own experiments on returning prawns to the seabed and catching them again, proving survival rates are high and it is worth returning the berries. James  sounded like he wanted to be buying sustainably caught produce in the years to come and was not into a short-term cash in. Good to know he is treasurer of the Federation. Fishermen from all round the coast of Scotland were there today and although we we did not agree on every thing we did not fall out over anything and were a lot stronger by the end of the meeting. It was accepted that there were different problems in different areas where the solutions are going to be locally worked out solutions.

So then it was just a case of meeting up with Alison and trucking off down the A9 in the wind and rain, getting to the hotel with half an hour to spare, into the taxi and to the Oran Mor. Absolutely stunning music followed. Shelley Morris opened with lots of loving stories about her own life as an Aborigine in the Northern Territorries. Sweet lady with a strong and emotional voice. Seems she was up for Aussie of the year but came to Glasgow instead. She was a perfect lead in to Raghu Dixit. What a night, warm, loving, personal and self-effacing and his music stunning. With both Shelley and Raghu there was a common double theme, the first part was where is the sun and the second which gave you a little pride in where you are from. They told us several times about the warmth of their welcome and reception, both touching their chests in appreciation. Good to feel one comes from a part of the world where friendship and acceptance is important. Headed back, pizza, and kip. One thing is not missed back home  is fast food outlets……mind you the Inn is pretty fast. Back home now but glad I wrote some of these posts on the Ipad as I have already forgotten so much of a packed exhilarating weekend.

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.

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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.

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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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