The date today is 09-02-09

Changes - 1900 to 1950

By the turn of the century the herring fishery had been a failure on Ballantrae Bank and Loch Fyne for a number of years, yet there were still signs that the herring were there, with spawn deposited on the banks[i]. Even with disappointing catches in parts of the Clyde, herring was still the mainstay of the Clyde fishing industry, although also of importance were line and net fishing for cod and flounder, shrimp trawling and crab and lobster fishing[ii]. In 1913, herring accounted for 84% of the total landings in the Clyde area, and 81% of the total value48. By the first decade of the 20th century, line fishing was declining drastically as fishers came into increasing competition with trawlers48.

Steam and diesel power

At the end of the 19th century, steam had revolutionised the trawling industry, and quickly became an important part of the Firth of Clyde fishing industry. The ability of steam trawlers to work without being at the mercy of wind and tide meant that conflict with users of static gear still occurred, and probably increased as trawlers towed away set gear33. Diesel motorboats also quickly increased in use before the onset of the First World War, with the impact of motor power on the fishing industry as considerable and almost as rapid as the invention of the otter trawl. By the first decade of the twentieth century, boats could travel further than ever offshore, with up to 240 miles travelled to fishing grounds, whereas 30-40 miles was considered a long distance just a few years before[iii]. This innovation also meant that motor-powered boats could be back hours before the sailing boats, saving valuable time49.

In 1910 the Loch Fyne herring fishery was at its lowest ebb, and showed few signs of improvement from a state of depression that had become the longest on record[iv]. Drift nets were gradually abandoned as more people turned to seine netting using motorised boats to catch herring49. However, by the 1920’s the Loch Fyne herring fishery had started to revive, another example of the fluctuations common to herring[v]. Around this time, pressure also began to be placed upon opening up the closed area in the Clyde to trawlers[vi] as foreign vessels increasingly frequented the boundaries of the closed area and fished illegally[vii].

The Clyde fishery saw new innovations in the mid-1920s. Two decked boats were built for Campbeltown fishers that were 50ft in length. Open boats of the 19th century were long gone, yet conditions were still cramped and uncomfortable, and this extra room would have added much welcomed space to the living quarters. Their catching power was further enhanced by the fitting of a motorised winch to haul in the net52.

The rapid innovations in technology led to much more efficient vessels, and by the end of the 1920’s overall Scottish fisheries catches had more than doubled in a decade, from 156,460 tonnes in 1917 to 328,226 tonnes in 1926[viii].

Juvenile fish

The Clyde fishery has caused some concern, not so much from the scarcity of fish as from their small size56.

By the beginning of the 1930s, catches in the Clyde had once again declined and fishers were now dependent on immature herring[ix]. It was established by scientists that the Clyde herring fishery was largely dependent on one year class at a time. Successful recruitment only occurred sporadically, accounting for the large year-to-year differences in catches[x].

Regulations were applied limiting the quantity of small herring that could be landed each day[xi]; however this would have been unlikely to halt the destruction of juvenile fish as the fishing gear in use could not select just large fish. Therefore these regulations would simply have increased the amount of discarding.

Locating herring was still done by sight, but in the 1930s ‘feeling wires’ came into use in the herring fishery. These were weighted wires that could be trailed from the deck of the fishing boat, from which skilled fishers would be able tell the condition of the ground and locate the presence of herring14. Feeling wires were able to detect fish when the long-used techniques for sighting herring were unable to be employed because of unfavourable conditions, and were used until ring-netting itself was discontinued in the 1970’s14.

With the onset of the Second World War many fishing grounds were again protected from fishing due to hostilities, but within the Firth of Clyde most of the herring fishing areas remained available, with the inner waters of the Clyde opened when shoals of herring were suspected[xii]. The importance of the Clyde area at this time was such that in 1940 the Firth of Clyde provided up to 43% of the total Scottish landings of herring for that year58.

Fleet of ring netters moored c. 1938. Source: Martin, A (2002). Herring fishermen of Kintyre and Ayrshire. House of Lochar, Isle of Colonsay, UK14

 

<< Scientific Interest pre-1950 ||Main Index ||Emerging fisheries / decline of herring >>


[i] Sutherland, A., Crawford, D., Thompson, D.W., Duguid, W.R., Milloy, L., Mearns, D., Watson, H. and Robertson, W.M.C (1906). Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1905. Edinburgh, UK.

[ii] Sutherland, A., MacKenzie, W.L., Thomson, D.W., Breadalbane., Archibald, J., Irvin, J.H., Smith, M. and Jones, D.T (1914). Appendix L: Reports by the Inspectors of Sea Fisheries and District Fishery Officers. Thirty-second Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1913. Edinburgh, UK.

[iii] Sutherland, A., Morison, T.B., Thompson, D.W., Breadalbane., Archibald, J., Irvin, J.H., Smith, M. and Jones, D.T (1911). Twenty-ninth Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1910. Edinburgh, UK.

[iv] Fulton, T. W (1911). The investigations on the herring fishery in Loch Fyne. In, Sutherland, A., Morison, T.B., Thompson, D.W., Breadalbane., Archibald, J., Irvin, J.H., Smith, M. and Jones, D.T (1911). Twenty-ninth Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1910. Edinburgh, UK.

[v] Jones, D.T., MacKenzie, W.L., Thompson, D.W., Irvin, J.H., Smith, M., MacIver, D., Miller, W. and Hogarth, G (1921). Thirty-ninth Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1920. Edinburgh, UK.

[vi] Jones, D.T., MacKenzie, W.L., Thompson, D.W., Irvin, J.H., Smith, M., Hall, G., Miller, W. and Hogarth, G (1924). Forty-second Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1923. Edinburgh, UK.

[vii] Jones, D.T., MacKenzie, W.L., Thompson, D.W., Irvin, J.H., Smith, M., Hall, G., Miller, W. and Hogarth, G (1923). Forty-first Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1922. Edinburgh, UK.

[viii] Jones, D.T., MacKenzie, W.L., Thompson, D.W., Irvin, J.H., Smith, M., Hall, G., Miller, W. and Hogarth, G (1927). Forty-fifth Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1926. Edinburgh, UK.

[ix] Hogarth, G., Dickson, J.R., Thompson, D.W., Slater, G., Carstairs, W.M.W., Campbell, G., Hay, J. and Norris, A.A (1937). Fifty-fifth Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1936. Edinburgh, UK.

[x] Hogarth, G., Dickson, J.R., Thompson, D.W., Slater, G., Carstairs, W.M.W., Campbell, G., Hay, J. and Norris, A.A (1936). Fifty-fourth Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1935. Edinburgh, UK.

[xi] Hogarth, G., Blades, D.P., Thompson, D.W., Slater, G., Carstairs, W.M.W., Campbell, G., Hay, J. and Norris, A.A (1938). Fifty-sixth Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland, being for the year 1937. Edinburgh, UK.

[xii] Scottish Home Department (1949). Report on the Fisheries of Scotland 1939-1948. Edinburgh, UK.

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