Dredging up a row over fishing
A COUPLE who questioned the reason for an Orcadian scallop dredger off the coast at Tiree feel well and truly told off by Oban Times columnist and musician Angus MacPhail.
Regular visitor to the islander James Laikie wrote what he believed to be a ‘polite’ letter to Tiree’s only newsletter. But, in return, Mr MacPhail took Mr Laikie to task over his letter in his weekly column.
In response to the newspaper, Mr Laikie said: ‘No marine environment campaigner could do a better job than Angus MacPhail to illustrate the desperate PR problems of modern commercial fishing. His article ( The Oban Times, June 8) told off a tourist who questioned scallop dredging in a letter to Tiree’s newssheet for arrogance, ignorance, superciliousness, narrow-mindedness and a lack of education.
‘ Well, at least Mr MacPhail was listening.
‘I’m the tourist who wrote that short, polite letter, with my wife.
‘ We gently questioned the arrival of a scallop dredger (from Orkney) at an island pier.
‘I had family links with Tiree and I have been visiting for many years.
‘Along with all of marine science, I know well enough what devastation the dredgers have wreaked there and around Britain.
‘Sadly, most small- scale, fixed-gear fishermen and divers throughout Argyll and on the Clyde (where I live) have long been too nervous to speak up against this uniquely destructive fishing method. Someone needs to.
‘But Mr MacPhail says we cannot. He doesn’t appear to think tourists have any right to do anything except take in the view. He ignores the fact that we are fishermen’s customers and that we are also taxpayers who subsidise commercial fishing - not least the improvement of fishing piers at Tiree and elsewhere.
‘Mr MacPhail goes on. Marine science on dredging is not credible (if he disagrees with it). Britain’s most eminent professor of marine and fishing policy is simply ‘manipulating data’ to support his ‘ anti-fishing agenda’. There should be no Marine Protected Areas – fishermen can police themselves.
‘Our view – which echoes that of the Marine Conservation Society, Scottish Environmental Link, Marine Stewardship Council, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and a horde of others, all science-based – is mere ‘moral posturing’.
‘Sounds a little like Mr MacPhail pulled up Donald Trump in his trawl.
‘It is not funny, though. This industry has always shouted down those who dare voice concerns about a resource that belong to all of us.
‘If Britain’s fishermen had proved good custodians of the sea and its contents over the past century, we might trust them a bit more.
‘You only need follow the news to see how big scallop dredgers shamelessly flout the rules on gear and environmental protection – and we find out only about those that are caught. This is little to do with ‘fragile island economies’ – most largescale scallop dredging is about big east coast companies, big profits and a workforce, up to half of whom are from abroad.
‘I have the utmost respect for Tiree’s fishermen and all people who make their living from the sea and land in a sustainable way – and I know many who do. I would suggest Mr MacPhail curb his temper and takes a measure of the width of his own mind. We all want just what he wants, and what his father would have wanted – a healthy sea, recovering stocks and a fishing industry with hope for the future.’
In his column, Mr MacPhail claimed: ‘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.’