I attended the Scottish Islands Federation’s Marine Litter Event in the West Highland Hotel on Tuesday 28th February. This was a really interesting event, with a good mix of attendees, all of whom were full of enthusiasm for tackling the issue of Marine Litter. Around Mallaig and the islands, we tend to think of the bigger waste generated by fishing and aquaculture as the biggest issue, but it turns out, that’s some of the easier stuff to deal with! Shore to Floor on Skye use salvaged ropes to make mats in various sizes, from doormats to table placemats, and Ocean Plastic Pots was established by a former deep sea diver to use waste plastic and transform it to plant pots. Ocean Plastic Pots are working on a pilot to take some of the marine litter from around the Small Isles and transform it into plant pots which could then be sold locally. They did a similar thing with Ulva, where 5 tonnes of rubbish was collected and then recycled into plant pots. It’s small scale at the moment, but worth looking out for! There is a big discrepancy in the waste which washes up on our West Highland and Island shores compared to what washes up in the rest of the country, and I for one was amazed and horrified at what had been taken out of the water in one scoop off the shores of Helensburgh – much of which had obviously been flushed down the toilet and was much smaller and harder to deal with.
As part of the discussions prior to this event, we met with KIMO, who operate the ‘Fishing for Litter’ scheme, to try and reinvigorate the scheme locally. ‘Fishing for Litter’ enables local fishing boats to access bags to take to sea and to fill with any marine litter that is brought on board while fishing. These bags are then collected by KIMO to be taken away and disposed of. We’re encouraging all our local fleet to get involved, and if anyone is fishing around the coast, and travelling regularly to Mallaig to be able to drop full bags off in Mallaig, then please get in touch and we can arrange for you to have access to the bags.
Aside from Marine Litter, I have spent the month working on the Outer Harbour project. Although I breathed a sigh of relief when the application was submitted to DEFRA at the beginning of the month, this was actually just the start of lining up everything to take forward the project, and there is still a lot of background work to do! We’ve had two vessels this month having to send in tenders to the Harbour as we don’t have enough depth or length. The first was the Ronja Skye, and then HMS Portland put ashore crew on Monday 27th and picked up crew on Tuesday 28th February.
We have also been working alongside the fishing industry this month to provide data to support responses to the Government’s Highly Protected Marine Areas Consultation, which has a closing date of 20th March 2023. This has wide reaching implications, not just for the fishing industry, but potentially for recreational use of our seas as well. There are various thoughts on this, some of which are published elsewhere in West Word this month.
We have been informed that, due to disruption elsewhere in the network, the summer timetable sailings between Mallaig and Armadale will initially be undertaken solely by the Loch Fyne, while the Coruisk is redeployed to the Oban-Craignure run to support capacity on that route. It is expected that the timetable will be amended to enable the Loch Fyne to cope with demand on the route for the early part of the season, but these amendments have yet to be published. The Loch Bhrusda will also be needed elsewhere in the Network for the early part of the summer timetable, which will have implications for the Small Isles freight service on a Saturday.
On a more positive note, those of you in Mallaig will have seen that Gary Burton is making good progress with the new marina building, so it is well on schedule to be complete in time for the Marina reopening in April.
We are also once again happy to provide some financial support to Mallaig Football Club for the upcoming season, and Secretary Chris Gray and Jaimie Young are pictured receiving the cheque from me this week.
Some of you may have seen the episode of ‘Scotland’s Great Escapes’, which featured Canna Campsite. When the episode was being filmed, we had Grado in the Harbour Office chatting about all things Harbour and the challenges of living on an island. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view!) I didn’t make it into the final programme, but there was a wee glimpse of Grado eating a bacon roll on the Harbour, having missed the ferry.
Bha mi toilichte am mìos seo a’dol dhan Bunsgoil Mhalaig airson Seachdain na Gàidhlig. Bhruidhinn mi mu dheidhinn Gàidhlig agus na dòighean a tha mise a’cleachd Gàidhlig agus na dòighean a tha Gàidhlig cudromach airson an coimhearsnachd seo. I was happy this month to go and speak to the children in Mallaig Primary about ways in which I have used Gaelic and its importance for the community as part of Gaelic Week.
Finally, you may be aware that a Men’s Shed has started in Mallaig, meeting on a Monday morning at Mallaig and Morar Community Centre until they can find premises of their own. To give them another opportunity to meet, and to keep the momentum going, we have offered the meeting room which we created as part of the renovations to the old Denholms Office, on a Friday afternoon from 2pm. Everyone is welcome to come along, and you’ll even get a cup of tea or coffee!