I wrote last month’s news between Christmas and New Year, before the new restrictions had been imposed on us all, so by the time you read it, it would have already been out of date! Most of our staff are now working part-time and are back on furlough for the remaining hours. This means that, although there are usually two members of staff on the Harbour, it might take us a bit longer than usual to get things done. The office is closed, but someone will be in and out periodically, and you can still contact us by phone or email. It is slightly different to the first lockdown, in that the ferries are still operating and the fishing boats are not tied up in the way they were last March, but it’s still much quieter than we would expect.
Because I wrote last month’s piece before New Year, I also didn’t get the chance to thank the crew of the Ronja Commander for their amazing fireworks display at midnight on Hogmanay. Those of us who are lucky enough to overlook the Harbour were treated to almost 10 minutes of fireworks, which was definitely the highlight of an otherwise very strange Hogmanay!
The Sprat fishery continued into January, with the last landings on the evening of Tuesday 12th January. I mentioned last month the uncertainty around Brexit, and the difficult start to the year has been well documented elsewhere, but I have spent quite a bit of this month gathering facts and figures to evidence calls for support for the fishing industry. The issues around paperwork and difficulties exporting have added an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging market for our fishermen. We now have all the landing figures for the year, and for calendar year 2019, landings through Mallaig totalled £4,768million, £3.919million of which was shellfish, £525k white fish, and £325k pelagic. In 2020 the equivalent figure was £1,402million, of which £1.084million was shellfish, £88k White fish and £231k pelagic. This is a reduction of 70% in a year, and while it impacts on the Harbour, it has much wider impacts for the community, and all those connected to the fishing fleet.
In more positive news, we have been awarded funding through the Ferries Accessible fund to install a passenger shelter at the top of the new passenger pontoon. We’ve commissioned Falco, who installed the shelters for CalMac in 2019, and we’re hopeful of having the shelter installed in the Spring. Thanks to those on Knoydart and the Small Isles, and the Lochaber Disability Access Panel who have been working with us, and who provided letters of support for our applications.
We have also received information on the COVID-19 Marine and Outdoor Tourism Restart Fund, which is intended to provide support to marine and outdoor tourism businesses significantly affected by COVID-19 and are faced with seasonal re-commissioning and re-start costs ahead of the 2021 season. The guidance document is now available to check if you’re eligible – https://www.visitscotland.org/supporting-your-business/funding/marine-outdoor-restart-fund. It’s a short turnaround from when the fund opens for applications at 12pm on 2 February until it closes at 5pm on 9 February, so worth looking at beforehand.
Finally, just a wee reminder to parents that if your children are playing on the pier, especially in the evenings when boats are landing, please remind them to keep out of the way of where boats are landing and forklifts operating – for their own safety!