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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: February 2023

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It hasn’t been a great start to the year in terms of weather, which has meant that very few of the boats have moved. The Sprat pump is still on the pier but has had no use at all this year, for the second year in a row. The stormy weather has seen some Irish fishing boats taking shelter in the Harbour while passing through on their way to or from the fishing grounds, but very limited landings for January.

Looking at overall landings for the year, we had a few visiting boats landing during the summer months, which took our total for the year almost to pre-pandemic levels. After the much lower figures for 2020 and 2021 this was a welcome boost.

Last month I outlined details of the services that were due to be put in place while the ferry terminal in Uig was out of action, which included five sailings a week between Lochboisdale and Mallaig, and two return trips on a Saturday. Unfortunately, disruption elsewhere in the network has once again meant that this has not been possible. There have also been various disruptions to the Loch Nevis sailings, in part due to weather, and in part due to infrastructure issues on the Small Isles and in Armadale. The Armadale issue meant that the Screen Machine was unable to come to Mallaig for their scheduled visit on Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st January, which was disappointing for all those who had booked tickets for the various films.  

I have spent much of the month meeting with stakeholders, and gathering information to submit a funding bid to DEFRA for the Outer Harbour project. We have had to revise the scope of this project, as to proceed with the original project, which included drilling and blasting to deepen the Harbour and the construction of a splay berth, was proving to be unaffordable for the Harbour. It is still our intention to deepen the Harbour by dredging, without the drilling and blasting, and construct the splay berth, but this is obviously subject to the funding bids being successful. While taking out the drilling and blasting element will mean that the Outer Harbour won’t ultimately be the -6m below chart datum that we had hoped for, it will mean that the works can be completed with much less disruption and in a shorter time period than we had initially thought. The original programme had allowed 33 weeks for the drilling and blasting, and vessels would have had to work round the drilling barge throughout this period. We are hopeful that the dredging will deepen the Harbour to -5m below Chart Datum, so there will be some benefit to the MOWI well boats, which have to work tidally at the moment.

Those of you in Mallaig will have noticed that the new foundation has been completed for the Marina Cabin and we hope that construction will start on this mid-February. We are building a wooden cabin which will be slightly larger than the previous portacabin, and properly insulated etc. so a bit more pleasant for our staff.

You may have seen adverts locally for a Marine Litter event, which is being organised by the Scottish Islands Federation and funded by Marine Scotland with support from Highlands and Islands Environment Forum. The event is taking place in the West Highland Hotel in Mallaig on 28th February from 10am until 3.30pm. Marine litter, made up of household plastic items and fishing litter, is a massive problem for island and coastal communities – causing pollution, killing wildlife and being landfilled instead of being eliminated or recycled into other products. The event will bring together a wide range of stakeholders to identify sustainable solutions to the problem of marine plastics and their disposal. We have been in discussion with the Scottish Islands Forum, and particularly with our Small Isles colleagues, to look at whether we can host a pilot to collect marine litter for recycling. Everyone is welcome at the event, and you can register through Eventbrite – you will find the link on Mallaig Harbour’s Facebook page.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: January 2023

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Happy New Year everyone! We welcomed the New Year again this year with another amazing firework display by the Ronja Commander, again supplemented by some local residents who had clubbed together to organise a pretty spectacular display. It’s becoming a regular tradition, and BBC Alba had even hoped to film it live as part of the Hogmanay ceilidh being broadcast from Mallaig and Morar Community Centre, but unfortunately some of the Harbour buildings were in the line of site to the satellite link so those of us who were at the ceilidh had to miss out on the fireworks!

Another similarity from last year is that there has again been no Sprat fishery to date this year, and it’s looking increasingly likely that the pump will be taken down unused before the end of the month.   

Looking back at last year’s January news, we had achieved a number of projects over the year. This year, it very much feels like all the emphasis has been on the Outer Harbour development, and the various iterations of this that we have had to go through. We now have a plan from Wallace Stone for the initial phases of the works, which are estimated to take 33 months in total and which will lead to disruption in the Outer Harbour, in particular while the dredging and blasting take place. This is likely to take around 30 weeks. We hope to manage it so that overnight berthing will be available throughout this time, and we are working with the main users of the Outer Harbour to try and timetable these works for the quietest periods to minimise disruption as far as possible.

Some of the works we are proposing will be for the benefit of CalMac, but we recognise that there has been significant disruption elsewhere in the CalMac network, and that this will continue with the closure of Uig for upgrading works. This will be done over two periods, the first from 16th January to 13th March 2023, and the second at the end of the summer season, from 30th October to 11th December 2023. During these periods there will be additional sailings between Lochboisdale and Mallaig, so we recognise the importance of there not being disruption in Mallaig during these periods. Between January and March, it is planned that there will be five sailings a week between Lochboisdale and Mallaig, with two return trips on a Saturday.  Let’s hope the weather is kind to allow this to happen! Further details and all the timetables can be found on CalMac’s website—Customer-Update.

The Scottish Government have also published their recommendations under the Strategic Transport Review 2 (STPR2). These can be accessed on Transport Scotland’s website – just search ‘STPR2’, and include a recommendation (No 42) for improving port infrastructure; ‘Investment in port infrastructure, including power supplies, would complement the introduction of new and upgraded ferry vessels. This would help meet the needs of rural and island communities by improving the capacity, resilience, reliability, accessibility and standardisation of ferry services and reducing their emissions. Investment in port infrastructure means that there can be progress to standardisation and interoperability of new and existing vessels, increasing network resilience. This investment would also contribute to reducing emissions across the ferry network and support Scotland’s net zero carbon emission targets.’ MHA needs to recognise this recommendation in any works we undertake, especially relating to the ferry infrastructure in Mallaig.

Those of you who live locally will be aware that Scottish Sea Farms were among those fishfarm operators who had difficulty with loss of salmon due to microscopic jellyfish blooms. This resulted in an increase in mortalities having to be landed in Mallaig, particularly in September. In agreement with Scottish Sea Farms, we charged a premium for these landings, with the intention of the monies going back into the community. In total, the premium was £900, so at the Board Meeting in December we agreed that these monies would be split as follows: £250 to Mallaig Community Council for the Christmas lights; £200 to Mallaig Primary School; £150 to the local Cubs and Beavers, who undertake an annual beach clean and who plant flowers at the entrance to the Harbour each year; and £300 as seedcorn funding to enable those interested in establishing a Men’s Shed locally to take forward the project.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: December 2022

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The Sprat pump was installed but so far there haven’t been any landings of Sprats, which is always disappointing. Not only do Sprat landings give a good boost at the end of the year to the fisheries, it would also have been a good test for the ice plant, which was shut down for a week in November while we installed a new gearbox and undertook various other bits of maintenance. Although we think of the ice plant being ‘new’, it has been in operation for almost four years now and so was needing some TLC. As with all things Harbour related, there had to be a challenge around the works! Despite us and the boats being organised, with ice orders made for the preceding Friday to last the fishing boats through the planned shut-down, the Ronja Challenger used the berth overnight on the Thursday and had an engine breakdown, which meant it couldn’t move on the Friday morning to allow the fishing boats in. Thankfully the Harbour staff had a plan ‘B’ and the new ice bins we had ordered in anticipation of a busy sprat season were filled and put in the chill for the boats to access as required. 

I attended the Aquaculture and Innovation Day as part of Lochaber Ideas Week. Servicing the Aquaculture industry is a big part of the Harbour’s income and it was good to meet with others involved in the industry and to see some of the new ideas that are coming through. As we are looking at development in the Harbour, it’s useful to understand some of the innovations that might be taking place in the Aquaculture industry, so that we can adapt our plans to support these. The idea of ‘active’ fendering systems for example, which use tidal motion to generate electricity, is something that we might be able to consider down the line. Some of the ideas being talked about, such as these ‘active’ fenders, are just at concept design, while others, such as a hybrid system which uses the diesel generators on fish farms to intelligently charge and discharge batteries, and therefore reduces reliance on these diesel generators, saving money and reducing carbon emissions, are already well established. 

Although the fishing has been very quiet, there is still a lot of activity on the Harbour – with lots of interesting loads of cargo for Knoydart recently. One of our Board Members, Jim Wilson has been working with the Knoydart Foundation (Knoydart Renewables) on their project to provide energy security, so we took delivery of a new transformer recently, as well as miles of new cabling and the pipework for it to be buried in. There’s also roof trusses and lots of insulated board, which we are presuming is for someone’s new house. Sometimes I think that it should be a condition of building materials being loaded over the pier that we get a photo of the finished project – it would be interesting to chart the progress over the years!

We’ve had a visit this month from staff at the Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMC), part of the UHI based in Fort William, who are able to support Small and Medium sized enterprises throughout the Highlands and Islands. The Centre can provide a range of services to help local businesses, including 3D scanning and printing (at scales up to full building size!); Project Support and CAD and CAM services. Although we don’t really manufacture anything on the Harbour, we do have some ideas that they can hopefully help us with – including streamlining processes in the feed shed to manage stock better. Another example the AMC used was being able to 3D scan boats to allow organisations to consider how any changes that they might be proposing to make to the layout on deck (or below) would impact the vessel. The Advanced Manufacturing Centre is happy to help all sectors of business, and are really approachable and helpful, so if you have anything you think they can support you with – get in quick as there is EU funding available for the next few months.

Wallace Stone have been in discussion with potential contractors about how the works in the Outer Harbour might proceed, and have provided us with some potential options. As a Board we are going to consider these, and the associated disruption that they might cause, and we will then be talking to wider stakeholders, hopefully early in the new year.

Finally, we’d like to wish all Harbour users, and the wider community, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year when it comes.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: November 2022

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The clocks have changed so it’s dark late afternoon; the Steam Train finished on the 28th October, and CalMac are on their winter timetable so the Loch Fyne, Loch Bhrusda and the Coruisk are away for the season. Summer is definitely over! The harbour seemed very empty for a few days, but the stormy weather has seen it fill up again so we are juggling berths to fit everyone in!

Another sure sign that summer is over is that the sprat pump arrived at the end of October, just about the same time as it arrived last year. Unlike last year, we haven’t installed it yet, until we have more information about when the fishing is likely to start. It feels a bit like Déjà vu, as last year when I wrote about it being installed I said the weather still felt a bit mild for sprats, and the weather has definitely been mild the last couple of weeks.

Some of you may have seen press coverage of the fishing statistics published by Marine Scotland for the 2021 calendar year. These showed an increase in the value of landings for the Mallaig District of almost 38%. Whilst this seems very positive, it has to be taken in the context of the very low landings in 2020, and also the fact that this is for the whole district covered by the Mallaig office of Marine Scotland, which also includes the Small Isles and Ardnamurchan, and the North Shores of Loch Linnhe to Corpach. Tonnage for the year fell by -1.5%. By far the majority of landings throughout the district were shellfish (83% by tonnage), and this is certainly the case for landings through Mallaig Harbour as well. Marine Scotland’s figures for the district showed a total of £4.8million was landed throughout the district, while our figures for last year showed landings of £2.4million through Mallaig Harbour, so only half the district landings came through Mallaig Harbour. For comparison, the same statistics showed a peak for the district in 2017 of £9.8 million, and landings through the Harbour in 2017 were £8.16 million, so a much larger proportion of the landings were through the Harbour in 2017 than is the case now. I’ve mentioned in previous months the challenges facing the industry, and this month the Reul a’Chuain was sold to be converted to a houseboat, and the Silver Dawn has also been tied up so the local fleet is reducing further.

It’s the end of the season at the Marina so the seasonal staff are all finished for another year. Our thanks go to Gena, Michael and Ross for working alongside Chris this season. It’s been another busy year, with 1,700 nights occupied at the Marina, and 1,022 vessels. Total nights occupied are higher than last year, and even slightly higher than 2019 – pre-pandemic.  We’re going to remove the portacabin from the top of the pontoon within the next month so that the concrete can be laid for the foundation of the new office ‘cabin’ which will be up and running for next season.

Last November, I wrote that the works had started on converting the Denholm Office into smaller spaces, and this November I am delighted to say that the new tenants are finally able to move in. Mallaig Fishermen’s Co-op and West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation are in the process of moving across from their existing offices above the railway station. It will be great to have some more activity through in that side of the building again. Some of you will know that my husband works for WSFPO, and that he used to be employed by Denholms, working in the office we have converted, so there have been lots of jokes about being in the same building, and about him almost getting his old desk back!

I also mentioned last November that we had submitted the Marine Licences for the works in the Outer Harbour. It may not look like much progress has been made with this, but there has been lots of work going on ‘behind the scenes’. We have added an additional ferry berth to the scope of the original works, in response to the Coruisk being back, and the Loch Bhrusda supporting the Loch Nevis. While this has delayed things, it will mean that the overall project makes as efficient use as possible of the space within the Outer Harbour. We are consulting with CalMac at the moment about this new ferry berth to ensure it meets their needs, and then hopefully we will be able to cost the project and apply for funds to make it all happen! You will have seen in the media elsewhere, announcements about new ferries and various other works being undertaken to the ferry infrastructure. There are plans for a replacement for the Lord of the Isles, and also initial consultation is being undertaken by CMAL on the Small Vessel Replacement Programme. Both of these have potential impacts for the infrastructure in Mallaig, and we have to be sure that any work we undertake in the Outer Harbour considers these potential impacts. You can find details about these projects at

Finally this month, we sponsored Mallaig Football Club again this year, and after a long season, with some disappointments along the way, they were worthy winners of the Ewen MacRae Cup.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: October 2022

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The good weather now seems a distant memory – with wind and rain for much of the first week in October, and most of the boats tied up. Thankfully, it was still relatively mild at the start of September, when we welcomed Jasmine Harrison and her support crew to the marina on 7th September. Jasmine set off in June to swim the length of Great Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats. As of the 3rd October, she had rounded Cape Wrath – so not too far to go in the scale of things! You can read more about Jasmine and track her progress at

The Loch Nevis has returned from its refit, and the Loch Bhrusda is now away to cover the Sound of Barra run for October. The Lord of the Isles is not running to Mallaig at the moment, while repairs to the linkspan in Lochboisdale are being undertaken.

CMAL held a public webinar on 31st August to share an update on the Small Vessel Replacement Programme, which includes the Loch Fyne and the Loch Bhrusda. You can access the slides and watch a recording of the webinar at . The winter CalMac timetables have now been published, and while the Loch Bhrusda will not be undertaking the additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale during March that she has for the last three years, there will be two afternoon sailings Mon-Saturday from 24th October until 5th November and then from 16th to 30th March. There are also some changes to the Small Isles sailings, due to the turnaround time on each island being increased to a minimum of 20 minutes.

After two really good months of fishing, August’s landing figures were down to around £650k. However, that still means that landings for June, July and August of this year were higher than the total landings for the year to March 2022! The challenges for the fishing industry are ongoing though. The Delivery Plan for the Fisheries management strategy 2020 to 2030 has recently been published, and the Chair of the Inshore Fisheries Group, Simon MacDonald hosted a meeting for interested parties in Mallaig on Wednesday 28th September.

Things have really quietened down at the Marina, so it will no longer be staffed at the weekends from now until the end of the season. It’s been a busy year, and we were pleased to feature in a list of the ten best UK boating destinations, as chosen by a ‘sea-faring mum who has spent the last five years exploring Britain’s coasts’ – Heather Kemp. The article named Mallaig as a ‘must-visit location, known for its stunning sunsets and wildlife including dolphins, whales and sea eagles.’ We can’t disagree with that!

On the 1st September I attended the Scottish Ports Group meeting, organised by the British Ports Association and hosted by the Port of Ayr. It was great to be able to go and meet people working in similar jobs again, and we were given a tour of the port in Ayr. They operate in a very different way to Mallaig – with mostly bulk cargos being loaded and unloaded. This included huge wind turbine blades when we visited – something we’ll never have the space for in Mallaig!

I then finished off the month talking to Board Members and staff of UHI about the Harbour’s development plans, and the potential for the proposed Marine Training Centre to support these plans. It’s always great to be an advocate for the marine training that goes on in Mallaig – there are so many people involved in marine industries around the Harbour who have started their training over at the Learning Centre, and so many other opportunities that could be available locally if there was a dedicated centre. Again, it comes down to space! If UHI’s plans come to fruition, the new centre would be in the area of the old Marine World – which is the first area you see as you come to the roundabout to enter Mallaig – and it would be great to see this redeveloped.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: March 2022

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I started last month talking about the storms, and it feels like there has been nothing but storms since. Although our weather hasn’t been as extreme as other parts of the country, we’ve had our fair share of wind and rain, so much so that the boats have hardly been as sea for the last month. Let’s hope March is a better month!

Storm Dudley disrupted the harvest schedule for MOWI on 16th February, and instead of being overnight the harvest started at 2pm. Gillie kindly invited Mallaig Harbour Authority staff over for a tour round the factory, showing us how the fish are harvested. Some of the longer serving staff had seen the process before, but for me it was a first, and really interesting to see. Whilst people may have different opinions about the merits of farmed salmon, there is no question that the welfare of the fish is at the forefront of the harvesting process.

I also mentioned last month the publication of the Summer timetable for the Skye and Lochboisdale ferries, and the intention that the Small Isles timetable would be published imminently. As I’m writing this, the timetable for the period from 25th March until 6th May, utilising the Larven and Spanish John to sail to Rum and Canna on a Saturday to support the Loch Nevis, has just been published, and Saturday sailings for the peak summer period have not been finalised. CalMac have also issued a statement that the Lord of The Isles will not be available for the Mallaig – Lochboisdale route for March, as she is covering an alternative route. In the meantime we have moved ahead with the proposals to provide a bit more marshalling space. Working with CalMac, three shipping containers have been moved onto the Breakwater to enable us to create a one-way system and utilise part of the car park between the snack bar and the Loch Nevis berth to provide additional marshalling. CalMac have also been talking to us about the project to build a replacement vessel for the Lord of the Isles, which is in its early stages. As part of their community consultation, they will host a public webinar on 16th March, and we will publish more details on this on our website and Facebook page.

Parking is going to be a hot topic for the next few months, as the new Parking Enforcement Officer has started work and we are all going to have to think a bit more carefully about where we park. We’ve been getting lots of enquiries about parking permits on the Harbour. All our spaces are allocated and we have a long waiting list so unfortunately we can’t provide a solution for everyone.

We have taken the opportunity this month to tidy up some of the Harbour area, disposing of old nets and fishing gear from the Harbour and the area around the West Bay Stores. It took two 16 tonne skips and a further smaller skip to achieve this, so we are hopeful that the area remains tidy!

During the storms this month we were also made aware that some people had decided it was a good idea to jump into the water from the harbour while all the boats were tied alongside. It goes without saying that this is never a good idea – jumping into cold water in amongst ropes and moored vessels is not a sensible move – especially not in the middle of a storm. We are extremely lucky that there have been very few incidents around the Harbour and we’d like to keep it that way! We don’t want to have to close off parts of the harbour because of the actions of a minority but we also have to take our Health and Safety responsibilities seriously.  

Our Marine Licence for the works in the Outer Harbour is now being processed by Marine Scotland, and alongside these works, the Board took the opportunity at our February meeting to consider the future strategy for the Harbour Authority, and to look again at our Masterplan, which was published in 2016. Lots of things have moved on from then, and we wanted to take the opportunity to consider what we might add to the original plans. This is a work in progress, but we realise that there has been lots of activity within some of the communities served by the Harbour since 2016, and that we should be engaging with the wider community to see what other future demands there might be if more space was available on the Harbour. We hope to get the opportunity to do this over the next few months so watch this space!

Jacqueline McDonell