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 www.homeanddry.uk.
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 – www.oceanplasticpots.com 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!!