Children’s marine conservation charity Ullapool Sea Savers held a community-wide prawn party to support local fishermen and boost morale last weekend.
The Sea Savers has a record of successful campaigning on marine issues. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, it received a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund to host a community celebration of everything it loved about the sea, as part of the National Lottery’s 25th anniversary celebrations.
Plans to hold a beach-based seafood, music and art party had to be cancelled as the country went into lockdown. However, on learning that local prawn fishermen are facing severe financial difficulties following the collapse of the French and Spanish markets, the children decided to arrange a socially distanced prawn appreciation party instead.
After buying two days’ catch of prawns from a local creel boat, the children – with help from a couple of parents – inspected and then divided the catch into small bags, made from recycled plastic and donated by the local Tesco store. They offered these for free online, and distributed them around the village. Ullapool households then posted photos of the meals they cooked on social media.
Janis Patterson, who organises Ullapool Sea Savers, said: “Although conservation and protection of the seas and marine life are the kids’ main objective, we also recognise the importance of a healthy fishing industry as part of the system, and the place of that industry at the heart of Highland communities. In the past we have visited boats in both Ullapool and Gairloch, and we know a lot of the fishermen and their families personally.
“Many people in the Highlands are facing financial pressures as a result of the lockdown, but fishermen had an overnight stoppage, and many boat owners, crews and those who buy and sell seafood are in serious trouble. Sadly, we can’t help them all, but we thought that by helping one boat, we could raise awareness of the wider situation, while also introducing what is some of the best shellfish in the world to the community. We really hope that this will encourage people to buy directly from the boats and local fishmongers who are struggling to keep going.
“After a lot of consultation with industry advisors and groups such as Seafish and Marine Scotland, we worked out a way to land the prawns safely and legally, then distribute them without putting ourselves or others at risk. By the end of the day we were all tired – the kids really got a taste of the effort that goes into landing seafood – but they were all really happy, as we got messages and pictures of friends and families in Ullapool enjoying their prawn meals – everything from traditional prawn cocktails to Cajun and Indian recipes.”
Local seafood supplier and fish shop owner David Mackenzie of DM Seafoods said: “It was great to see the kids out, not only supporting our local boats but promoting our domestic shellfish around the village. We are doing our best to maintain a local supply chain, but it is hard to keep going, and especially when many people are used to getting their fish and shellfish from supermarkets.
“Our own local produce is some of the best in the world, and linking up the fishermen, boats and local markets is critical if we are going to keep the industry going until all this is over – in fact, it could be beneficial in the long term if we all choose to buy locally rather than what is often imported, factory processed and doesn’t taste as good.”
An online map of local buyers and sellers is available at: fishonfriday.org.uk/sales-locations