Just read a report from the New Economic Foundation about how inefficient our fishing methods are and how far we are from sorting it out. Although the report concentrates on white fish and pelagic fisheries I see the same happening on our prawn stocks. The report suggests that if we take measures to get the stocks of fish and shellfish back to a level which is a maximum sustainable yield then everyone from fishermen to buyers and all connected on the shore make more money than they are doing just now and more people will be involved in the fishery. The present situation of catching more than is being replaced by the stock is unsustainable but every-one both at sea and people in power seem unable to take action until yet another stock disappears from view. The report uses the word ‘restore’ and I remember we tried to put that into a management plan for our inshore fisheries future. We had to take out the word because other fishing association leaders objected to the unscientific nature of the word. Unfortunately I had not read this report as the science is there to back up the use of the word ‘restore’. One suspects that the opposition to the word restore rests in the fear that their members would have to suffer some short-term pain, that is lose some earnings, in the hope that stocks will recover. When you look at the Applecross Inn,one of the best west coast eating establishments, specialising in seafood, what a shame that all the white fish comes from the east coast. It is a pity but I see no long-term future for fishing in Applecross if we stay on our current track. One of the more troubling developments in recent years is the fact that by putting back the berried prawns you can no longer make a viable living from the fishery. Up till now you could argue that I was making a good wage while still returning the berried females and you could argue with other fishermen that this is good fishing practice. I do not think that is the case now and that is why I now work part-time at the Inn and am fortunate Alison has a two-year contract. So unless there a policing policy introduced then it will not happen on a voluntary basis. The brief spell of good fishing has already tailed of here. The other missing link is that we do not seem to catch for the market but go out and catch whether the demand is there or not.
On a lighter note work at the Inn is going well. Was there the last couple of days where the Easter trade has started up and the Inn is full of happy diners. A couple of shifts lined up over the next couple of days and the staff numbers are reaching full complement as the boys come back from South Africa. It does seem that the Inn is not being too badly affected by the general down turn in the economy but this is not accident in that there has been a huge amount of hard work gone into building up a loyal and sustainable trade over the last 23 years. Spoke to Kenny and Gemma for a while last night. they came down with leaflets for the Torridon sea tours, although it may have just been an excuse to have some good food. Booked a trip this summer to the Shiants an ambition second only to going to St Kilda.
Turning thoughts to bees again as the weather and the time of year means the beekeepers will be having their first look at their hives. We are hoping to get 3 nuclei from Colonsay. Toying with the idea taking Dougal and co with me and camping overnight. Hope the winter was not too harsh and the keeper has some bees for sale.
Wasn’t going to post today but having gone onto the sustainable seas blog based at SAMS, recommended by Ruth, a post caught my eye about how the fishing of the Ghana coast seems to be in trouble. It appears to have a much larger effect on developing countries when they mismanage their resources. Whole cultures and a sustainable way of life seems to be lost when they adopt our fishing practices. One aspect that caught my eye was the social/religious restrictions that the local fishermen imposed on themselves and it got me thinking that the same has applied on the north west coast as well and has acted as a conservation of the stocks. About 50 years ago many of the Applecross fishermen who would be fishing for lobster would either open their creels after lifting them on the friday and would not rebait them till the monday morning because they did not want to catch lobsters on the ‘sabbath’. Nowadays that would be regarded as quaint but I am not so sure. I do not have strong views about what anyone should or should not do on specific days but the decline in catch levels does run in tandem with seven days a week fishing. We tend to treat our resources almost like visiting a supermarket, we expect the product to be there. I have noticed the disappointment of visitors who have come to Applecross and part of the experience is eating shellfish, but scarcity or bad weather means they cannot have what they want. However a simple explanation about sustainable fishing and maybe explaining,for example, the Inn does not sell berried prawns usually allays any disappointment. Going back to the Ghana situation up till now the Applecross fishermen have not fished seven days a week mainly out of respect of the older generation. I used to think I would but have seen the benefits of resting the grounds. Unfortunately boats from other ports work the grounds of Applecross relentlessly. I was speaking to an ex fisherman, now offshore, who painted a pretty bleak picture of the industry locally, declining catches, wages are such that it is getting more and more difficult to keep regular crew. There is a big shift to one man operations which helps the individual in the short-term but maintains pressure on the stocks. When you put the previous generations self-imposed religious restrictions in the perspective of todays declining stocks they were possibly onto something.
Yesterday’s shift at the Inn was busy but very rewarding. It seemed like Lochcarron came over for lunch and reminiscing with customers about family connections and friends is just the ticket for a sense of well-being. The customers went away happy as well as well fed. There is little doubt in my mind that a sense of a collective coming together is one of the most important things we do, recognising that we are individuals but together we operate at a different level. That is probably a bit of the Eastern Blue sky thinking underway again. (previous post). By the way Spain and Poland have arrived.(see competition)
Living in such a small community writing a blog is bound to and is causing a few ripples. I have had a few chats over the weekend and found a variety of opinions all of which I can both agree and disagree with. I suppose I should be pleased that some think it is worth talking about. I love the responses from such diverse sources like The No Ruff Days dog blog interest in Dougal to Soulsby farm in Ohio, USA. Locally I have come across the view that what I write does not go far enough and the view that it goes too far. This brings me back to my conversation with Sam, who is a genuine writer, about why one writes. I do not think I will ever be some one that writes what I think people want to read. It is more a thought clearing process and if it is of interest to any readers I am seriously humbly pleased. Have to stop now and work on my ego.