The Oban Times - - Letters - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­

THIS week’s ar­ti­cle is a re­sponse to a sub­mis­sion on the letters page of the lat­est edi­tion of An Tiris­deach (the lo­cal Tiree news­pa­per).

In it, the au­thors, James and Linda Laikie from Gourock, protested against the fish­ing op­er­a­tions of a boat re­cently bought by Coin­neach MacK­in­non of Hill­crest, Tiree.

The ar­ro­gance and ig­no­rance of the con­tent, cou­pled with the su­per­cil­ious tone in which it was de­liv­ered, places this let­ter as a shin­ing ex­am­ple of the very worst traits of anti-fish­ing lob­by­ists, and a good in­di­ca­tor as to why there is such deep dis­trust of en­vi­ron­men­tal groups by the fish­ing in­dus­try.

The is­sues cre­ated by such strong opin­ions based on lack of knowl­edge are, of course, not lim­ited to Tiree, but are a threat to pop­u­la­tions across all fish­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

Con­ser­va­tion of stock and stew­ard­ing of marine re­sources is in ev­ery­one’s in­ter­ests, but by­standers will­ing to dev­as­tate fish­er­men’s liveli­hoods on the whim of pas­sion­ate ig­no­rance are a dan­ger to frag­ile coastal com­mu­ni­ties.

One of the main rea­sons why I ob­ject to any pro­pos­als for cre­at­ing pro­tected ar­eas of sea and coast­line, such as MPAs and SPAs is that once they are des­ig­nated, it gives this type of per­son with an un­bal­anced and un­e­d­u­cated per­spec­tive a high de­gree of di­rect con­trol over economies and pop­u­la­tions in which they have no an­thro­po­log­i­cal in­ter­est.

The wor­ry­ing truth is that there is an alarming num­ber of this type of in­di­vid­ual – and num­bers mean po­lit­i­cal power and po­lit­i­cal power means in­flu­ence. They would hap­pily over­see the de­pop­u­la­tion of is­lands like Tiree if it satisfied their po­si­tions of mo­ral pos­tur­ing on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues they do not un­der­stand, but feel so very strongly about.

I fully ad­mit to be­ing bi­ased in this. The man among all for whom I hold the great­est re­spect was at one time a scal­lop fish­er­man. It is rel­e­vant to con­vey to the Laikies that the scal­lop ground fished by that man, my un­cle, Iain Skip­in­nish in the 1980s and 1990s, and also fished by count­less other boats from all over the coun­try at that time, be­fore that time and un­til the present day is ex­actly the same ground that Coin­neach MacK­in­non is mak­ing a living from now.

Analo­gies of cut­ting down a for­est to catch a par­rot, as quoted in their let­ter, is the type of ridicu­lous, sen­sa­tion­al­ist non­sense that kills the cred­i­bil­ity of the marine science in­dus­try in the eyes of fish­er­men and makes it more dif­fi­cult for all sides to work to­gether in the in­ter­ests of the sea and the fruits it bears.

Cer­tainly, scal­lop dredg­ing can cause dam­age to cer­tain types of seabed in cer­tain places and this should be man­aged sen­si­bly and, in some cases, clos­ing spe­cific ar­eas may be the best ac­tion. Progress on this will not be made, though, by ex­treme views and ig- no­rance the like of which was dis­played in the let­ter be­ing dis­cussed.

I sug­gest to James and Linda Laikie that there are far more dam­ag­ing in­dus­tries ad­versely af­fect­ing the world’s oceans than that which can be in­flicted by a 37ft, four dredge-a-side scal­loper tow­ing on flat gravel and sand beds that have been fished in this way sus­tain­ably since scal­lop dredg­ing be­gan in the area more than 60 years ago.

They should turn their en­er­gies against big in­dus­try fill­ing the seas with plas­tic, heavy me­tals and other waste, and re­frain from de­mon­is­ing a young man do­ing his best to make a mod­est living on a re­mote and frag­ile is­land.

I hope the next time the Laikies of Gourock are vist­ing Milton Har­bour they hap­pen upon the ghost of my fa­ther. Along with oth­ers, he worked hard to have the orig­i­nal and the newer pier built, and he would be im­mensely proud of the thriv­ing fish­ing fleet now op­er­at­ing from there. He would be very proud of Coin­neach, a young en­er­getic man who has taken a con­sid­er­able risk in in­vest­ing in growth and di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion to build a stronger fu­ture for him­self, his fam­ily, the fish­ing in­dus­try and the is­land of Tiree as a whole.

I, too, am very proud of Coin­neach and I hope he will not al­low his ca­reer to be ad­versely af­fected by the nar­row-minded snip­ing of peo­ple who clearly do not un­der­stand the dam­age their ig­no­rance can in­flict on an al­ready weak is­land econ­omy.

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