Dredg­ing up a row over fish­ing

The Oban Times - - News - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

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.’

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