Despite Johnson’s bluster during the final days of Brexit negotiations about ‘taking back control’ of British waters, the UK fishing industry is enraged by his deal with the EU. And Scottish fishermen are particularly angry about it. Because even Rishi Sunak’s £300bn budget ignored Scottish fishing.
But while most of that talk focuses on big business, it’s smaller fishing communities in Scotland who are leading the way. And that lead could be one that’s sustainable for people in these communities and also their wider environment.
Scottish fishing abandoned by the Tories
When the ink dried on the Brexit deal, it was clear the damage it had done to Scottish fishing. Exporting from the UK to the EU has become so complex, it’s actually more beneficial for some Scottish fishermen to sell their catch in Denmark.
Scottish government approach
And in terms of sustainability, the role of the Scottish government hasn’t been exemplary either. When Scottish creel fishermen won a review into how fishing is managed off the Scottish coast, the Scottish government appealed it.
The creel fishermen proposed separate spaces for static (creel) fishing and mobile fishing. Static fishing is where fishermen leave their pots on the seabed for days. Creel fishing also has a lower carbon footprint. They claim:
Creel fishing is a profitable, species-selective and environmentally sustainable form of fishing with very little by-catch. Target species are brought to the surface alive and undamaged, meaning that egg bearing ‘berried’ females or undersized animals can be returned to the sea.
Language makes fishing sustainable
A recent documentary – Iorram (Boat Song in English) – focuses on fishing in the Outer Hebrides. And this documentary could have revealed something really important. Because it shows what it believes to be a connection between the Scottish Gaelic language in small fishing communities and environmental sustainability.
Roughly 75% of fishermen there speak Gaelic. And as they speak the language at work every day, they pass it on to another generation of speakers. And through this language, according to the documentary, local fishermen continue a knowledge of the seas that nobody else possesses. They can locate fishing grounds through the use of nature and local landmarks. As a local fisherman put it:
Nobody else has that knowledge
Even the old crofters don’t know those
Creel boats account for a large part of Scotland’s inshore fishing fleet. According to the Conversation:
Scotland’s inshore fleet fishes within 12 miles of the coast and makes up around three-quarters of all Scottish fishing boats. Almost 90% of these are small, two-person creel boats.
And the research uncovered through Iorram shows that local fishing knowledge helps to continue a tradition of sustainability.
The fishermen know which parts of the sea to leave untouched during spawning season. As one of them explained:
Fishermen aren’t going to cut their own throats
In addition to the government attacks on fishing and sustainability, small communities in western Scotland are facing depopulation. If we want to keep these communities together, and in a way that’s environmentally sustainable, there are lessons to be learned from the creel fishermen and Gaelic speaking communities. And we should be paying attention.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?