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Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: June 2023

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The good weather has continued throughout May, and the marina is back open for the season. Although we have had some busy spells, it hasn’t been as consistently busy as last May, so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year compares. The Pellew has arrived back for the season, and we are expecting the Eda Frandsen, followed by the Provident and Blue Clipper later in the year.

Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our application to DEFRA for the funding for the Outer Harbour project. This, combined with the tenders being higher than the estimate, means that we will have to revisit the project. This will delay the start date – so our hopes of getting started this year are now unrealistic. It’s a bit disappointing as lots of people have put lots of work in to get us this far, but we will try and come up with an alternative plan to take forward the project, as the demand for additional berthing and commercial space is still there. In the meantime, we are working on the detailed design for an additional overnight ferry berth, and more surveying work on Tuesday 6th June.

We welcomed back the Loch Bhrusda and the Coruisk on Sunday 29th May, and the Lord of the Isles sailed in on Monday 29th so at the start of the week we were hopeful that normal service had resumed. Unfortunately, by Wednesday, CalMac had announced that the Lord of the Isles was being withdrawn again for the whole of June. While this is an inconvenience to us in Mallaig Harbour, it’s a much bigger issue for those in South Uist, and there has been significant backlash associated with the decision. With the Lord of the Isles sailing from Mallaig we were expecting up to 12 departures to the various islands each weekday, and 15 on a Saturday which is a lot of activity around the Harbour. In other ferry news, some of you may also have noticed new information boards as you pass Lochaber High School, which have a bit more information about any potential disruption than the previous board was able to display. These boards have been a work in progress for several years so it’s great to see them finally installed and working.

We also welcomed the first visit of the ‘new’ Screen Machine, which has a slightly different configuration, and so had to park up beside the ice plant, rather than opposite the office. This trailer has been leased from the same French based company who built the existing Screen Machine, and is slightly lower than the one it replaces, and is on hire while Regional Screen Scotland work towards the development of a new Screen Machine. The slightly lower height meant that, for the first time, the Screen Machine could visit Mallaig by road, rather than coming across on the ferry!

We had our Auditors up for a week in May, and at the same time we hosted a work placement student from S3 at Mallaig High School for three days. We were very lucky to have Aisling, who helped out with a range of jobs in the office. These included designing posters for the upcoming fishing competition and Marina Day – details below.

We’re hosting a sea angling competition on Saturday 1st July from 9am until 5pm, with weigh in and trophy presentation at 6pm at the Marina Centre. This has been kindly sponsored by Mallaig Boatyard, so the entry fees of £10 per adult (under 15s free) will be in aid of Mallaig Lifeboat and Mallaig Fishermen’s Mission. You can pick up an entry form and a copy of the rules from the Marina, or download them from our Facebook page.

The week after, Saturday 8th July, will see the return of the Marina Day, which hasn’t been held since 2019. This is a fun day, which is usually held on the second Saturday of June. Given that we’ve waited 4 years, we thought an extra month wouldn’t make any difference, so this year we are breaking with tradition and hosting the day in July! There will be a barbecue, and a bucking bronco, as well as information stalls for the RNLI and Fishermen’s Mission, and activities for children. This year there will also be a small regatta departing from the Marina at 2pm. We haven’t quite finalised the posters yet, but look out for them around the village, and we’ll post more information on our Facebook page throughout the month.

Our AGM will take place on Friday 16th June 2023. We are going to host a buffet lunch in the West Highland Hotel from 1.30pm, which will be followed by a presentation on the Harbour and our future plans, and the AGM. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Finally this month, we have had a few issues with locals driving too fast around the Harbour. The speed limit on the Harbour is 10mph, with a lower limit of 5mph in some areas. These limits are in place to keep everyone safe – especially during the busy summer months when there are lots of people around as well as vehicles. Under our Byelaws, the Harbour Master has the powers to ban people from driving on the Harbour. Whilst we would hope it would never come to that, the safety of those using the Harbour always has to be our first priority.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: May 2023

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April has been a great month of weather, and we have been taking advantage of this to get lots of little jobs done around the Harbour. Some of the more observant among you will have noticed the new banners on the front of the prawn market, one advertising our participation in the ‘Fishing for Litter’ Scheme, and one advertising the ‘Home and Dry’ campaign, promoted by the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG). You can access more information about this campaign, and safety information for those at sea, at

We’ve had a few visiting fishing boats again this month, which must be all the more frustrating for our local fleet, most of who have been tied up for all or part of the month for various reasons.

We’ve installed more safety fencing over by the gear stores at West Bay. We know that behind these stores is a great place for local youth to hang out unseen, but it’s not without its dangers, so we are trying to discourage this as much as possible.

Our tenders for the Outer Harbour project were returned on the 14th April, and unsurprisingly for the economic climate we are in, these were higher than the original estimates. We are looking at what can be done to ensure that the project can go ahead in some format. At the time of writing we are still waiting on a decision from DEFRA as to whether they will award funding towards the project, and if so, then how much, as this will obviously have an impact on how we proceed.

Our first priority is to demolish the old ice factory to make some space on the harbour to enable construction works to start. We have been talking to a local contractor about this, and need to apply for a demolition permit to undertake the works. The Northerly winds on Sunday 23rd April resulted in one of the corrugated panels on the seaward side of the building being blown off. This has been made safe temporarily until the demolition can take place.

The ferry disruption continues, so at the moment the Loch Bhrusda is providing more capacity on the Sound of Barra run, and only the Loch Fyne and Loch Nevis are operating from Mallaig. Some of you may have seen the ‘Pentalina’ passing Mallaig on its way back to Orkney on Wednesday 19th April. Its return will allow the ‘Alfred’ to start sea trials with a view to providing more capacity to CalMac, and more resilience if maintenance is required on vessels. We are scheduled to have the Coruisk back in Mallaig from 16th May – all being well with the programme for the annual overhaul of other vessels.  

We said goodbye to the ‘Vega De Lyra’ this month. She has had new engines installed, been renamed as ‘Lady Chanelle’, and sailed from Mallaig on 13th April; off to Malta, where she will be used as part of a Tuna fishery.

We’ve also been supporting the Small Isles this month with their partnership with Ocean Plastic Pots and Keep Britain Tidy to remove some of the nets and ropes from island beaches, which Ocean Plastic Pots will turn into flower pots. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product being sold locally. You can find the story of Ocean Plastic Pots on their website – and we have very kindly been given a couple of their pots as a ‘thank you’ for our involvement in the project. These are over at the Marina for the season.

We submitted our response to the Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) consultation, and also published this response on our website. I mentioned this last month, and many of you will have been following the continued controversy over the plans.  This controversy resulted in Skipinnish releasing a song titled ‘The Clearances Again’, along with Vatersay Fisherman Donald Francis MacNeil, which reached the top ten in the Itunes download chart. The next stage in the consultation is a series of workshops to be held between now and late 2024. Mairi MacAllan announced after the consultation closed that she would visit Scottish Coastal Communities to listen to concerns, so hopefully the schedule for these visits will include Mallaig.  

Finally, a wee shout out to the Mallaig FC Under-18s team who won the Skye and Lochalsh Junior League after a play-off with Portree on Sunday 23rd April. Congratulations to them – Congratulations to them – as well as MHA being a sponsor, I say that as a proud Mum!!

Jacqueline McDonell

HPMA Consultation Response

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In line with many other organisations from the West Coast of Scotland, Mallaig Harbour Authority has submitted a response to the consultation on HPMAs (Highly Protected Marine Areas), which closed on Monday 17th April. In submitting our response, we have tried to take account of the views of stakeholders using the Harbour as well as pertinent issues for ourselves as a Harbour Authority. While we recognise the need for management of our seas and coastal resources, we have concerns about the proposals contained in the HPMA consultation, and the potential effects of these. You can read our full response below:

Question 1. What is your view of the aims and purpose of Highly Protected Marine Areas as set out in sections 2 and 3 of the draft Policy Framework?

Position: Neutral

As a port on the West Coast of Scotland, servicing a number of small rural communities, and surrounded by Marine Protected Areas, we recognise the need for protection of marine features and the sustainable use of our marine resources. However, we have a concern that not enough detail on the proposed areas and the implications of these is included in the consultation. Mallaig has historically been a fishing port, and has diversified to service the Aquaculture industry, both of which are important both economically and socially to Mallaig and the surrounding communities. There is not enough detail available in the Policy Framework on how HPMAs will be defined and therefore on what the impact on our coastal communities will be. Until this has been established, we could not support the creation of HPMAs which could be significantly detrimental to the communities we serve. Mallaig is currently surrounded by MPAs, which ‘have been developed around the concept of sustainable use, allowing activities that do not adversely affect the protected features to continue’. Our concern is that the proposals for HPMAs, which are intended to deliver improved conservation outcomes, may do so without due consideration for the associated economic and social impacts on the country’s remote and rural coastal communities.  

Question 2. What is your view of the effectiveness of the approaches to manage the activities listed below, as set out in section 6 of the draft Policy Framework, in order to achieve the aims and purpose of HPMAs?

  • Commercial fishing – Oppose.
  • Recreational fishing – Oppose.
  • All other recreational activities – Oppose.
  • Finfish aquaculture – Oppose.
  • Shellfish agriculture – Oppose.
  • Seaweed harvesting – Oppose.
  • Oil and gas sector – neutral
  • Renewable energy – Oppose.
  • Carbon capture, utilisation and storage – neutral.
  • Subsea cables – neutral.
  • Aggregate extraction – neutral.
  • Ports and harbours – Strongly Oppose.
  • Shipping and ferries – neutral.
  • Military and defence – neutral.
  • Hydrogen production – Oppose.
  • Space ports – neutral.


The lack of detail, and evidence-based analysis in the consultation makes it difficult to meaningfully answer the questions above. However, Mallaig Harbour Authority are concerned that the proposals contained in the consultation to ban commercial fishing and shellfish agriculture completely within HPMAs fails take into account the small scale sustainable fishing and aquaculture which is a key part of many rural economies.  It is difficult to reconcile the proposals contained in the consultation with the government’s own ambition to grow the blue economy. Whilst larger operators, in both the fishing and aquaculture industry, can relocate if proposals are brought forward, this is not the case for the smaller, less intensive, inshore fisheries undertaken over much of the West Coast.

In terms of renewable energy, the consultation again focuses on large-scale renewable energy developments and does not take into account potential small scale developments – often community-led – which support the economic sustainability of coastal and island communities, and can contribute to energy security and decarbonisation. As a Harbour, we would hope that any significant future developments undertaken would incorporate some form of renewable energy generation, for local usage. We also recognise our position as a hub for the Small Isles and Knoydart, all of whom have ambitions for ‘greening’ their communities, and the future opportunities for our community to benefit from the use of hydrogen, the production of which may be banned within our area if an HPMA was designated locally. 

Question 3. What is your view of the proposed additional powers set out in section 8.3.2 of the draft Policy Framework: “Allow for activities to be prohibited from the point of designation to afford high levels of protection.”

Position: Oppose

Without information on the selection criteria for the proposed HPMAs, and more detail on the proposed management tools for HPMAs then it is difficult to have a meaningful view on the proposed additional powers. However, some general comments are included below.

Many of the West Coast Communities in Scotland rely heavily on fishing and aquaculture to sustain their communities, whether through local job opportunities or through opportunities within other rural communities. The social and economic impact arising from the loss of even a small number of jobs in these key sectors may have a much wider impact on these communities and this is not taken into account anywhere in the consultation. This economic impact will also have wider consequences in terms of food security and efforts to reduce reliance on imports and encourage local food production as part of decarbonisation strategies. The same could be said of proposed powers to limit renewable development, and it is important that a distinction is made between large scale renewables, and community-led micro-renewables, or those proposed by SMEs as part of their business effort to decarbonise.

The consultation suggests that some recreational activities will be permitted at carefully managed levels, but again no detail is available on what this will mean in practice. People enjoy the seas around the West Coast in many different ways, most of which have no impact on the ecology, and this needs to be factored in to any decision making.

Any additional powers proposed need to be implemented after careful consideration of all the factors, environmental, social and economic.

Question 4. What is your view of the proposed additional powers set out in section 8.3.3 of the draft Policy Framework: “Establish processes to permit certain limited activities within a HPMA on a case-by-case basis for specified reasons.”

Position: Oppose

Whilst we recognise that some additional powers will be required in order to effectively manage resources, the proposal to establish processes which will require a permit on a case by case basis would suggest a level of bureaucracy which will be difficult to manage, resource and police.

Any exemptions proposed should fit within a framework that is easy to understand and manage in order to minimise time and expense complying with regulations.

Question 5. What is your view of the proposed additional powers set out in section 8.3.4 of the draft Policy Framework: “Activities which are not permitted in a HPMA but are justified in specified cases of emergency or force majeure.”

There will always be specific circumstances under which activities have to be permitted because of emergency or force majeure so our view is neutral on this.

Question 6. What is your view of the proposed additional powers set out in section 8.3.5 of the draft Policy Framework: “Measures for activities allowed and carefully managed in HPMAs.”

Position: neutral

Any additional powers should take into account existing use of the seas by our coastal and island communities, and the historical reasons for sites being chosen. Coastal and Island communities rely on income from the seas in many ways, including through low impact marine tourism, and this should not be restricted through additional powers unless there is very strong scientific evidence to support restrictions.

Any permit system needs to be easy to understand, manage and police, and low cost, otherwise it will become unwieldy and will be ignored.

Question 7. Do you have any further comments on the draft Policy Framework, which have not been covered by your answers to the previous questions?

No response.

Question 8. What is your view of the proposal that HPMA site identification should be based upon the “functions and resources of significance to Scotland’s seas,” as set out in Annex B of the draft Site Selection Guidelines?

Blue Carbon: – Support

Essential Fish Habitats: – Support

Strengthening the Scottish MPA network: – Support

Protection from storms and sea level rise: – Neutral

Research and education: – Neutral

Enjoyment and appreciation: – Support

Other important ecosystem services: – Support

HPMA site identification is key to the successful implementation. At the moment, no consideration is given to community requirements, and this should be factored into any decision making. It is important that site identification recognises the wider impact of designation, and the fact that there does not always need to be a blanket ban on activities to support ecological and environmental maintenance and improvement of resources.

Question 9. What is your view of the general principles that are intended to inform the approach to HPMA selection, as listed below and set out in section 4.1 of the draft Site Selection Guidelines?

use of a robust evidence base: – Strongly support

HPMA scale and the use of functional ecosystem units: – Support

ensuring added value: – Strongly support

delivering ecosystem recovery: – Support

The use of a robust evidence base is key to the selection of HPMAs, and is one of the most significant issues with the consultation as set out. Without a robust evidence base, which we have concerns does not exist at the moment for our rural coastal and island communities, the selection of HPMA sites could decimate these communities. Any site selection needs to recognise added value in terms of social and economic impact as well as environmental and ecological impact.

Question 10. What is your view of the proposed five-stage site selection process, found in sections 4.2 and 4.3 as well as Figure 2 and Annex A of the draft Site Selection Guidelines?

Position: Oppose

The selection process makes reference to the fact that ‘The designation of HPMAs and the application of these site selection guidelines will take account of socio-economic factors affecting the resilience and viability of marine industries, coastal communities and other stakeholders. As a result, some proposals may be screened out of further consideration during the selection process. Designation by Scottish Ministers will be informed by a Sustainability Appraisal, including assessment of socio-economic impacts’. However, without significant further detail on this assessment and the results, we cannot support the selection process.  

Question 11. Do you have any further comments on the draft Site Selection Guidelines, which have not been covered by your answers to the previous questions?

No response

Question 12. What is your view of the Strategic Environmental Report, summarised within sections 3 and 4 of the Sustainability Appraisal, as an accurate representation of the potential impacts, issues and considerations raised by the introduction of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines?

While this is an accurate representation of the environmental impacts, it is important that it is not seen in isolation from the wider impacts which could result from the implementation of HPMAs

Question 13. What is your view of the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment, summarised within sections 3 and 4 of the Sustainability Appraisal, as an accurate representation of the potential impacts, issues and considerations raised by the introduction of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines?

Position: Strongly oppose

The Socio-Economic Impact identifies several sectors as having a high anticipated scale of impact. With this in mind, it is important that communities and industry groups have an opportunity to feed into site selection at an early stage and that their concerns are taken on board before the process proceeds.

Question 14. What is your view of the partial ICIA screening report as an accurate representation of potential impacts, raised by implementation of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines?

Position: Strongly oppose

We strongly believe that the work carried out so far does not provide an accurate picture of the potential impacts in island communities for many of the reasons listed elsewhere. This is very likely down to the fact that no community level bodies or representative of community level bodies were included as stakeholders within the ‘partial’ ICIA.

As a Port servicing several islands, we see the impact of transporting food and other goods both on and off these islands. At a time when fuel prices are high, and there is much discussion about the carbon footprint associated with various industries, and about food security and the need for Britain to become more self-sufficient. The introduction of HPMAs may be detrimental to this if it restricts coastal and island communities from accessing local fish / seafood, either as part of traditional crofting activities or from local fishing businesses, and this is not made clear as part of the ICIA.

Question 15. Do you think that the implementation of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines will have any significantly differential impacts – positive and/or negative – on island communities?

Position: Yes

As a port which services some of the smaller islands off the coast of Scotland, and has a diversified customer base, all reliant on our marine resources, our view is that not enough consideration has been given to the importance of the sea to all aspects of island life (and that of our remote coastal communities). The sea is central to our island communities – and they are heavily reliant on it for many aspects of their sustainability. The proposals for HPMAs could have significantly differential impacts on the economy, transport, decarbonisation, food security and culture of our islands. These should all be taken into account in any decision making.

Question 16. What is your view of the partial BRIA as an accurate representation of the potential impacts, issues and considerations raised by the implementation of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines?

Position: Oppose

Stakeholder engagement to date seems to have been focussed on industry bodies, many of whom have publicly opposed the proposals. There has been no engagement with wider community organisations about the impact of proposals for these communities, or indeed with local authorities representing these communities. This would seem to be an oversight. The BRIA indicates that ‘the impacts will, therefore, not all be experienced within the area adjacent to the HPMA but potentially in numerous communities in a range of locations. It also states that ‘the impacts on communitiies….may include a direct impact to their economic welfare. We believe that much more detailed analysis needs to be undertaken on this before the introduction of HPMAs.

Question 17. Do you think that the implementation of the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines will have any financial, regulatory or resource implications – positive and/or negative – for you and/or your business?

Position: Yes

Question 18. If you answered “yes” to the previous question, please specify in the text box below, which of the proposals/actions you refer to and why you believe this would result in financial, regulatory or resource implications for your business.

Mallaig Harbour Authority is adjacent to a number of designated sites at the moment, and relies on income from aquaculture, fisheries and marine tourism, all of which could potentially be impacted by the introduction of HPMAs.

Question 19. Do you have any further thoughts on the Scottish Government’s commitment to introduce HPMAs to at least 10% of Scottish waters?

Mallaig Harbour Authority recognises the need for our marine resources to be effectively managed to ensure that these resources are sustainable and can continue to support the communities  who have benefited from their proximity to the sea throughout history. It is important that any implementation of HPMAs recognises that communities have always utilised the seas, albeit in a less intensive way than in some cases recently. Seafood and aquaculture are recognised as sustainable protein sources, and need to be managed as such. With this in mind, and selection of HPMAs should balance environmental ambition with a recognition of the importance of the socio-economic benefits of our rich marine resources, and the fragility of the communities surrounding our seas, particularly on the West Coast.

News from Mallaig Harbour: April 2023

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It’s April already, and the Marina has re-opened for the season, complete with new welcome cabin. Gary Burton has worked hard to make sure it was ready in time for the season, and we also have to say thanks to Callum and Colin King for all the electrical works, and to Jeremy Vickers for laying the flooring at relatively short notice. It’s looking really good, and it’s definitely not a bad view from the ‘office’. We’re also grateful to the members of the Mens Shed who came along and built the furniture for the interior. There are one or two finishing touches to be done, including an external notice board and signage, but we’re hoping to have these done by the end of the month. We’ve also welcomed Gena back for another summer season, and hopefully the new cabin will make for a more pleasant workspace for Chris and Gena than the portacabin it replaced.

We are expecting the return of the Eda Frandsen, Pellew, and Blue Clipper at various points over the summer, and this year, we may also have the Provident – an ex-Brixham trawler operating some trips from Mallaig. Some of you may have spotted the Provident in the Harbour this month, as she was visiting to use the slipway.

We shared a wee story on our Facebook page this month from the Eda Frandsen, which as many of you know, operates from Mallaig throughout the summer months, and was built at Doune on the Knoydart Peninsula. Eda had been having some work done on her mast, and traditionally sailing vessels carry a single coin on their mast step. Eda didn’t have one, but coincidentally Mungo spotted an advert for a 50 pence piece commemorating the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first Harry Potter book, which depicts the Hogwarts Express. This was felt to be a fitting coin, with the connection between the Hogwarts Express and Mallaig, and also the fact that it’s around 25 years since Eda was relaunched in June, so the mast has now been replaced with the 50p on her mast step!

Fishing has again been sporadic this month, although we have had a few visiting vessels landing, and we are hopeful that this will continue. 

Last month I mentioned the Consultation into proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas, which was due to close on 20th March. The deadline for submissions has been extended until Monday 17th April, and the consultation has been a ‘hot topic’ over the past few weeks, with many community organisations publishing responses in addition to those from the fishing industry.  While the principle of sustainable management of our seas is something we can all agree with, the strength of feeling in some of the published responses about the potential wider impacts for our communities is clear. There is still time to submit a response and although the consultation process is a bit unwieldy, you don’t have to answer all the questions.

By the time you read this, the initial summer timetable will be in operation for CalMac ferries. It’s nice to have the Loch Fyne back in service, and to see more regular ferry movements, and the additional traffic this brings to the Harbour. Unfortunately, disruption to services from Mallaig continues, due to vessels being deployed to cover shortages elsewhere. We are not expecting the Lord of The Isles back until mid-May at the earliest, and as a result of there being no service to Lochboisdale, the Loch Bhrusda has also been redeployed to the Western Isles.

April is the time of year where we advertise for new Board Members. Board Members are not directly involved in the operations of the Harbour, but provide support and guidance on the strategic direction of the Harbour Authority, including future plans. At the moment, we are at an exciting stage with the plans for the Outer Harbour, awaiting confirmation of a funding package but hopeful of starting the works later in the year. When Mallaig Harbour Authority was reconstituted in 2012, in line with Scottish Government guidance, the new constitution allowed for Board Members to serve two, three-year terms; and under exceptional circumstances, a third term. As with last year, we have two retiring Board Members this year, who are both eligible to re-apply for their second term. However, we always welcome applications to become a Board Member, and if anyone is interested, and would like more information, I’d be happy to talk through what it involves.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: March 2023

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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!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: March 2021

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We are still under the ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions as I write, so staffing remains the same as last month, with the office closed – although there is normally someone in, and less staff on the Pier than there would be normally.

Last March we were encouraging everyone to make use of the additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale, which were to be trialled in March 2020, March 2021 and March 2022. As some of you will be aware, CalMac had been asked to look at potential reductions to the timetable throughout the Network whilst restrictions are still in place. One result of this is that the additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale will not go ahead this year. Given that our Tourism businesses are still closed and that travel remains for essential purposes only, it would have been difficult to justify these additional sailings, which require an additional vessel to operate. Latest information is that the Winter timetables will be extended to 25th April, with a review mid-March into what the timetables should be from 26th April.

This month has consisted of a lot of background work into the various developments that we hope to undertake around the Harbour. It’s felt like slow progress at times, as everything is so interlinked, but hopefully by the end of the summer you will be starting to notice some visible progress with things like the passenger shelter at the new pontoon and new road markings, especially throughout the ferry marshalling area, which are all part of the traffic management plan for the ferries. One immediate impact from this traffic management plan was CalMac relocating the freight store for the Small Isles to behind the CalMac office, which is designed to reduce the number of delivery vans and lorries having to cross the marshalling area during the busy summer months. Although it might seem strange that the works are getting done now, when the ferry has never been so quiet, it’s a good opportunity to do them with minimum disruption.

The difficulties for our fishing industry associated with Brexit have been well documented, and last month I outlined the impact there has been on landings in Mallaig, mainly due to Coronavirus, but with Brexit as an added layer of complications. Whilst those in the industry were all aware that there would be an increase in paperwork associated with Brexit, the volume and complexity of this paperwork has caused significant issues over the last couple of months. For our smaller vessels, whose catch is likely to end up on a lorry with catch from several other vessels, this has been a particular problem. Whilst the paperwork is designed to provide traceability from the vessel to the final market, and is all well intentioned, the practicalities of adhering to it meant that in January exporters combining catches from several vessels into one consignment shut down their operations for a period, effectively meaning that there was no market for the catch being landed. This has now eased to an extent, but prices are still low. At the beginning of February, the Scottish Government announced additional funding which included £6.45 million for the Seafood Producers Resilience Fund to directly support fishing vessels and aquaculture businesses; £300,000 to assist the welfare and support activities of the Fishermen’s Mission; and £1million to support the investment plans of ports and harbours. Mallaig Harbour Authority has successfully applied for £180,000 to install shore power for our fishing fleet, which has to be spent by the end of the financial year.  

On 20th February, we welcomed the Ronja Christopher for her first visit to Mallaig. The Ronja Christopher one of the latest additions to the Sølvtrans fleet, built in 2020, and was in Mallaig to load smolts. She is 70m long, with a beam of 18m, so is one of the largest in the fleet.

Last month’s Westword (our local Community Newspaper) included a consultation from Mallaig Community Council about parking in Mallaig. As a Harbour, we know that this is a contentious issue. Mallaig wasn’t designed for the number of vehicles that are on the road now, and the village is also in the unique position of having a number of communities (Small Isles and Knoydart) who have to park in Mallaig in addition to the more local residents. Over the years, the Harbour has had a number of requests for additional parking, and we did have a request from the Community Council in December to consider creating additional parking as part of the new development that we have been discussion for the Outer Harbour. Mallaig Harbour already provides in excess of 85 parking spaces, mainly on a permit system, and we have a waiting list for these spaces, so we know that there is demand for more. These spaces are used by Harbour users, including fishermen; local businesses; and residents from the Small Isles and Knoydart. However, providing car parking is not actually an efficient use of Harbour land either in terms of the commercial demands on the limited space we have, or the income to Mallaig Harbour. As a result, we are not intending to provide any additional parking, except to service new buildings that might come about as part of the new development. We would encourage everyone with an interest to make their views known, as it all helps the Community Council strengthen any case for additional parking to Highland Council and the Scottish Government.   

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: February 2021

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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 – 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!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: January 2021

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When I looked back on last January’s news, it started with ‘Happy New Year’. I don’t think any of us could have predicted then just what a strange year it would become! We have been relatively fortunate at Mallaig Harbour Authority and have continued to operate throughout the year, providing essential services for both the fishing and aquaculture industries, and also infrastructure for the lifeline ferry services that operate from Mallaig. Although we furloughed some of our staff during the initial lockdown, since August all have been back at work.

The Sprat fishery has continued throughout December, it’s been a bit patchy, but overall fairly successful. I know Robert has the landing figures elsewhere in WestWord so I won’t repeat them here. However, some of you may have seen the photos of the old scallop nets and lanterns which became entangled in the sprat nets mid-month. These were from an early attempt at scallop farming and had been abandoned around 20 years ago, with no warning that they were on the sea bed. They caused a lot of damage to the sprat nets, and put the boats at significant risk – they were fortunate that it was a calm night and they were able to haul the nets aboard, albeit totally entangled. There are always debates about aquaculture and fishing co-existing, and about the amount of waste in the seas, and this was a stark example of waste from one industry causing damage and incurring costs for another.

The Sprats have been a welcome boost to the end of year fishing. January and February of 2020 brought stormy weather, and the boats were just getting back to sea in March when lockdown began and the markets crashed meaning that the boats were tied up once again. As a result, this has been one of the poorest years ever for fish landings. The announcement of a trade deal with the EU on 24th December means that, outwith coronavirus restrictions, access to markets in the EU will be maintained, but the restrictions around catching and quotas etc. have still to be finalised as I am writing this.

Looking back at the year, it’s not just the fishing that has been much quieter. Although the figures for CalMac ferry carryings have not been published for 2020 yet, we know that these are well down because of restrictions. As an example, in August 2019, 64,444 passengers travelled through Mallaig, and 14,015 cars. The equivalent figures for August 2020 were 22,247 passengers and 7,808 cars. Given that this was the first full month that restrictions were eased, it shows the scale of the difference. Cal Mac have published their timetable for the coming season, which is broadly similar to previous years (excluding the restrictions of 2020), with both the Lord of the Isles and the Loch Fyne sailing from Mallaig to Armadale, but with the LoTI returning earlier to Lochboisdale so doing one less sailing to Armadale (2 instead of 3) and the Loch Fyne also doing one less sailing between Mallaig and Armadale each afternoon (presumably to allow the LoTI to load the Lochboisdale vehicles at the earlier time in Mallaig). There are also almost 60 days of tidal restrictions throughout the summer timetable. The reduction in sailings results in a reduction of car spaces available from 726 daily in 2019 to 556 in 2021, a reduction of 23.5%. However, given the ongoing uncertainties about travel, this may not have too big an impact. Positively, the trial of additional sailings in March is continuing this year, with a minimum of 4 sailings each day from 1st to 25th March, and as many as seven return journeys on some days. You can find details of these at

 We did also manage a short season at the Marina, from the end July to October, with a total of 547 occupied nights and 359 vessels. This compares to a total of 1,429 occupied nights and 1,069 vessels in 2019 – approximately 1/3 in 2020. We know that the Marina season normally starts April, and that May, June and July are busy months for us, so again this is not surprising!

Work has been ongoing in the background on the proposed development for the Outer Breakwater, with a dive team visiting in early December to do some work on the feasibility of dredging the Outer Harbour to make it slightly deeper. We were also successful in our application for a loan from the Energy Savings Trust to convert all the Harbour lighting to LED. This is the first step in reducing our carbon footprint and improving energy efficiency at the harbour. The marine grade LED fittings need to be manufactured to order so there is a long lead time, but we hope to have all the lighting converted by early Spring.

We have also finally completed some of the maintenance works that were postponed due to lockdown in March, with the facings replaced on the Loch Nevis berth and replacement and repairs to ladders and bollards in the Outer Harbour.

Our Harbour staff once again supported the Community Council to put up the Christmas lights and the tree early in December so thanks to them for doing this.

I also started last January’s news by mentioning that we had been due a visit from the Screen Machine which had been cancelled due to stormy weather. This January we were also due a visit on 6th and 7th but this has obviously been cancelled due to the new restrictions in force since Boxing Day. The November visit had to be cancelled because the ferry was unable to sail, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we are able to welcome back Screen Machine!

I’ll end by wishing everyone a Happy New Year this month, lets hope 2021 becomes a bit better year than 2020 did. Hopefully the calm, clear weather so far is a good omen! 

Jacqueline McDonell