Nobody sings about prawns

on the ballotWhen Bagehot’s grandfather built a house in Carradale, a village on the Firth of Clyde, around 20 tubby fishing smacks operated from its tiny harbour. It was the 1960s and the fishing had never been so easy. Equipped with diesel engines, sonar fish finders and heavy trawl mesh, the boats were scooping up herring by the shoal. They employed over 100 men, from almost every village household.

For two decades the bonanza on Scotland’s west coast continued. An occupation that had been seasonal and modestly profitable became year-round and lucrative, but fish are not in unlimited supply.

So the fishermen turned to other species—saith, cod, plaice and sole—assisted by bigger engines and new dredgers. The Clyde fleet, based in Carradale, Girvan and other small ports along the Firth’s 100km stretch, could now fish deeper, for longer, and even in rocky places.

Politicians, who had once tried to husband the Clyde’s bounty, helped the slaughter – as the trawlers fished out unprotected parts of the Clyde, they opened the protected parts and in 1984 the last serious protection, a ban on trawling within three nautical miles of the shore was lifted and by the turn of the century there were scarcely any adult shoals left in the Clyde.

The Clyde’s remote fisher folk—the hardy, easily romanticised agents of the Firth’s devastation—are a constituency local politicians do not wish to annoy. So no government or green has tried hard to stop the rapine.

But Carradale is shrinking. Its young folk are leaving; one of the five boats is crewed by Latvians for want of local labour.

Few sing about herring these days. Nobody sings about prawns.

Full article here.

Category: Conservation, media

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