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Coastal fisheries collapse

Salmon and sea trout are not the only fish populations to have declined or collapsed in local waters. Catches of whitefish (cod, haddock, flatfish & rays) also collapsed during the 1980s and 1990s. Formerly, Wester Ross was a world class venue for sea angling. The sea angling European championships were held in Ullapool in the 1970s. Many stocks of white fish, except perhaps pollack, subsequently collapsed in local waters. Until the late 1980s rod catches of both salmon and sea trout remained relatively high.

In 1984, the Inshore Fishing (Scotland) Act removed the three-mile limit that banned the use of mobile gear within three miles of the shore. This opened the inshore fishing grounds to the trawlers. Inshore fish stocks became more vulnerable to over-fishing. Many local fishermen relate the collapse of inshore fish stocks to the removal of the 3 mile limit. Local divers report that scallop dredgers have destroyed many inshore reefs, with loss of topography, biota and habitat for numerous aquatic species. In 2000, the Loch Torridon Creel fishermen were granted provision of an exclusion zone for trawlers.

In 2007, it was encouraging to sea large shoals of juvenile herring in many sea lochs including Loch Gairloch, providing food for sea birds and sea trout. The extent to which this was an indication of a regional upturn in herring abundance rather than a local phenomenon is not clear. There is much to do to better understand and manage the inshore marine environment and to protect and rebuild fish stocks and other wildlife therein.

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  • Wester Ross Spring Spawning Herring Poster
    This poster shows some of the life-cycle and ecology of herring which spawn close to Red Point to the south west of Loch Gairloch in March. The poster is still in draft form; comments welcome! .  Posted: 29/03/2019 (912KB)
  • Neervoort, Ruby (2013) Tales from Herring fishers about the decline of the Wester Ross herring fishery
    This thesis, by VU University Amsterdam student Ruby Neervoort, subtitled 'a social and political analysis of the historical changes in the Wester Ross herring fishery over the last 50 years', contrasts events associated with the herring fisheries around Wester Ross relating to changes in herring abundance, fisheries management policy and the local fisheries as told by the fishermen.  Posted: 13/12/2013 (1.92MB)
  • a local community MPA for the Gairloch area?
    Presentation by Peter Cunningham at the meeting in Gairloch Community Hall on 7th May 2012 to consider options for developing a thrid party bid from the local community for a Marine Protected Area for an area around Loch Gairloch.  Posted: 11/05/2012 (10.08MB)
  • Dealfish
    Dealfish, Trachypterus arcticus, found in Badachro harbour on 10th November 2008 by Hamish Lawrie.  Posted: 11/11/2008 (1.18MB)