Seafish fleet researcher Juan Carlos Paredes Esclapez reports from the fishing communities along Scotland’s west coast
For the fourth year running, I’ve put on my yellow Seafish polo shirt and headed out to ports and harbours to catch up with skippers and vessel owners for our annual Fleet Survey. There have been some long drives, early mornings and late nights chasing the tides but, as usual, it’s totally worth it. I never get tired of learning from the fishing community.
This year I’ve had the privilege to speak to both seventh-generation fishers and newcomers, all of whom put the same passion into their job. Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve heard from fishers on the west coast of Scotland during my field research there.
This year, the weather has shortened the season for some of the vessels in Tarbert and Campbeltown, as although the rest of the UK experienced a heatwave, rain and wind have frequently swept along the west coast during most of June and July. Fishers unable to get out to sea told me how these conditions are having a big impact on business.
A few vessel owners also shared with me how they have adapted their fishing strategy in response current high fuel costs. They spoke of prices that are almost double what they have been in previous years, at around £1.20 a litre for diesel in some areas – a price that keeps performance below the point at which it is possible to make a profit.
They have been adapting with longer soaking times for some static gear, by spending longer days at sea, or by using different harbours, to make fuel costs more efficient for trawlers. With margins becoming increasingly tight, local fishers are forced to adapt so they can carry on catching seafood and supporting their crew and communities.
My Scottish survey trip also took me back to Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway – areas I first surveyed as a rookie researcher back in 2019. While I was there, the Festival of the Sea at Dunure was underway.
The local fishing communities I spoke to were supportive of the festival, reflecting on how these types of social events showcase the beautiful scenery, and also highlight the delicious seafood available for locals and tourists alike.
Carlos is a fleet researcher with Seafish, working on the 2022 Fleet Survey. This is taking place now, with researchers visiting ports and harbours across the country.
If you are happy to take part, please email: email@example.com with your name, email and/or phone number and port of operation, or visit the Fleet Survey page on the Seafish website to find out when researchers will be in your area.
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.