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

Posts tagged ‘trawling’

Future of Inshore Fishing and Kulfis

Every now and again something happens that you find hard to put into words but I think that the events that took place in Connecticut probably trigger many people’s thoughts on their own loss. It just seems so unnatural when an offspring dies before their parents and in my case I am pretty sure that when my sister died in a car crash south of Fort William my mum and dad never fully recovered from the blow. It does not matter how old your children are you cannot help but be apprehensive when they decide to white water kayak or skydive and you just push all the scenarios out of your mind. When it happens it must make life incomprehensible and this event is world news because it took place in the US of A. There must be innumerable events taking place across the “Third World” day after day where the tragedy is as complete but we do not hear about them. The struggle for these people to readjust their lives must be immense.

Back to the triviality of life in Applecross and its surrounds. On the way back from Kyle on friday it was back via Shieldaig for a massage and then a call to get an update on the latest IFG meeting on wednesday. Seems there is a stronger voice growing from the creel sector who are no longer prepared to get walked over by the larger sections of the industry. This year we saw the large east coast twin rig trawlers come over to fish in the Minch and use up the west coast quota. Naturally there was a strong reaction from the west coast trawler fleet who were most affected by this new influx of boats. There are two factors in the west coast prawn quota…the tonnage you are allowed to catch annually and the effort you use to catch the prawns, this is called the kilowatt days and if you run out of either you end up with a shut down fishery. At the time I thought it was a bit of rough justice for this sector (the smaller west coast trawl fleet) that had given the static gear men such a hard time over the last three decades but still agreed that the larger boats be kept under some sort of control. Suddenly all the trawl arguments used against the creels are nullified by larger boats coming onto their patches. Arguments like we need to work the seabed to release the nutrients etc are put aside as this is what the larger boats are doing as well…cannot use that argument now. The pressure on limiting creel numbers has been exposed now as coming from the mobile sector just as a way to get creels off the grounds to give them more ground to trash, sorry should have said trawl. The creel men have convinced Marine Scotland that we are in favour of limitations but with spatial management limits, that is do not replace freed up ground with the mobile sector. And at last there is a growing call for  a reinstatement of the three-mile limit, a call to amend the biggest environmental disaster on our fishing grounds over the last thirty years. This has resulted in fewer prawns and scallops and no fish, allowing the mobile sector in to the shore. Also we are attempting to be allowed to catch herring and mackerel for local markets and bait. This is being strenuously fought against by the wealthiest and most powerful fisher men, the pelagic sector. It seems we are now getting a hearing on these matters as well. It is a long road and nothing will happen over night but the sight of these boats hopefully will become fewer. It is satisfying that your own view is being expressed as a majority view now but a shame it takes the decimation of yet another fishery to get your view across but hopefully we are on the right road. I suspect that the same will happen on land as the ideas and opinions are based on the collective benefit and not for the personal gain of a few uninterested in the concept of community.

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It has been a little slow on the work front but we are doing a catch up little by little on the book front, wood is almost there and we had a really good shift at the Inn last night. A curry night sorted by Aron took place and was very busy with 60+ curries shifted and with lots of praise and compliments. Although I left around half ten many people were already leaving, a sign that lots of curry had been enjoyed and no one had any room for any drink!! I managed a selection of Beef Bhuna,Hyderabi Lamb and chicken Korma followed by a Kulfis, traditional Indian ice cream. Had the mango yesterday and managed a pistachio one today, both taste sensations. By the time I got to them we had run out of Lychees and Jaleb but the orange was fine.

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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.

Community essentials

Weather has been pretty poor again and threatens to be all week. Plenty to do although can space it out over the week. If by the end of the week a fleet of creels are mended, my hauler is back on the boat and working, I have dived for prawns, written the Community Company minutes, caught up with the Pier invoices and VAT, I’ll get to watch some Six Nations rugby on saturday. Already building up a bit of Scottish optimism. The wet stock reconciliation at the Filling Station and a break down has already been done today so we are of to a flyer. Working a couple of shifts later this week at the Inn. It looks an impressive list but there are lots of people doing similar stuff in the community. Village Hall committee was on tonight. I got bored doing the Com Company minutes so stopped to do a post. Funny I look forward to posting now although my technical abilities are fairly limited. The Vancouver post took ages but was enjoyable. The more you post the more you realise there is.

The creels will be done on thursday along with the hauler and hopefully my dive. When we fish for the prawns I store the boxes hanging over the side of the boat and in the past a couple have come free. I have circumvented this,or so I thought, by putting up to four boxes in a cage tying this up and hanging them all together. This worked fine until last week-end when a combination of a strong north westerly and a weak rope meant prawns ended up on the seabed. Found most of them yesterday but ran out of air and getting a fill of Bob so will be back in the water for thursday.. It was a bit of a sight me leaving the Inn yesterday zipped up by Mark in my dry suit to go off for my dive. A few wise cracks followed me out the door.

Off to Inverness tomorrow to another Fisheries management meeting. These meetings have been the result of a government initiative to bring a bit of structure to the inshore fishing grounds around Scotland. They have been progressing slowly but have hit a wall recently as the local coordinators have just been told they are not getting their contracts renewed. Very disjointed politics. I am not really surprised as I have dealt with the civil service so many times in the past and have not been impressed. The long view is not part of the equation when politicians get involved. At least the creelmen are at the table. Before the mobile sector could say whatever they wanted and up till now it has not been challenged. A bit different now and if what they have been saying was correct where are the fish. Trawling inshore waters does not work longterm. I have read Calum Robert’s book The Unnatural History of the Sea. Although it has a positive message at the end saying we have the potential to sort it out it tells of the mess we have made of the oceans. Meeting up with Andrea Nightingale on friday from the Geography Department of Edinburgh University. She has been around several times and is very interested in the community side of coastal communities. She is coming with Ruth Brennan who works at SAMS at Dunstaffnage near Oban and is also working with coastal communities, local knowledge of sea conditions etc. Very fortunate to meet with these guys who give you a different perspective and give you a fresh impetus on how you go about things.

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