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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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  • Angus's Boat song 16 April 2023 words and story
    The song Angus's boat tells the story of the fisheries around Gairloch, Wester Ross. Angus was a fisherman who lived at Big Sand, by Loch Gairloch and whose wooden row boat was pulled up on the shore by the Sound of Longa. WRFT Biologist, Peter Cunningham often met Angus on the shore when he lived nearby; Angus also told his stories to Sue Pomeroy as part of the herring fishers project. Gairloch Museum also has recorded conversations with Angus. .  Posted: 17/04/2023 (171KB)
  • Towards reformation of inshore fisheries
    Paper by Peter Cunningham (WRFT Biologist) with ideas for reformation of inshore fisheries around northwest of Scotland to restore fisheries production and secure and sustain employment in inshore fisheries for many people in local communities. The paper has been drafted in Peter's own time, the views expressed are his own. .  Posted: 08/03/2023 (810KB)
  • Cryptocotyle lingua (blackspot) on juvenile cod in Loch Ewe, autumn 2022
    A summary of the findings from a coastal fyke net trial by Boor in Loch Ewe within the Wester Ross Marine Protected Area, to monitor sea trout, in autumn 2022. The report describes infestation of juvenile cod, pollack, coalfish and poor cod by the parasitic trematode fluke, Cryptocotyle lingua. .  Posted: 21/11/2022 (803KB)
  • Little Loch Broom BRUV Surveys 2022
    Presentation by Dr Neil Hopkins and Dr Charlotte Hopkins describing animal movements in relation to seascapes and underwater habitats from baited underwater remote video survey of Gruinard Bay and Little Loch Broom in 2022, shown at Wester Ross MPA Discovery Day on 14th October 2022. Screenshots have been taken from video clips presented to illustrate animal diversity recorded. .  Posted: 08/11/2022 (1.47MB)
  • Wester Ross Marine Protected Area an introduction
    Presentation by Nature Scot describing the history of the Wester Ross MPA, designation, protected features, management and monitoring, with links to further information. This presentation was delivered at the Wester Ross MPA Discovery Day on 14th October by Sue Pomeroy of Little Loch Broom Marine Life group. .  Posted: 08/11/2022 (709KB)
  • Herring Fisheries & West of Scotland Herring Hunt
    Presentation by Dr Michelle Frost at the Wester Ross MPA Discovery Day in Ullapool on 14th October 2022. .  Posted: 08/11/2022 (4.47MB)
  • Finding Salmon and Sea trout around the Wester Ross MPA
    This presentation by Peter Cunningham introduces the main wild salmon rivers that flow into the Wester Ross MPA and describes some of the issues, including infestation by sea lice from poorly regulated open cage salmon farms, which threaten wild salmon populations and sea trout within the Wester Ross area. Can the wild salmon populations around the Wester Ross MPA be given additional protection?.  Posted: 27/10/2022 (11.01MB)
  • 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)