It’s a slow news month at the Harbour, with lots of background work going on for various projects, but nothing much to report!
Looking back at last year’s news, last August was a month of celebrities and dolphins. We haven’t had the celebrities this year, but there has been a lot of wildlife around again, with lots of sightings of dolphins from Western Isles Cruises and Minch Adventures amongst others, and even some minke whales visible just outside the harbour mid-month.
The amazing weather has continued throughout August, which has kept the Marina busy. To the end of August, over 800 visiting vessels have used the Marina this season. Considering we weren’t able to operate at full capacity for much of the summer, this compares well with the 2019 figure for the whole season of 1,125, and is certainly a lot more than last year’s total of 360! We’ve been looking at making some improvements at the Marina, and have submitted planning permission to replace the portacabin ‘office’ with a more permanent wooden structure, which will give a bit more space and be a bit more welcoming.
Regulations have continued to ease this month, and Sail Scotland, along with Wild Scotland have been in discussion with the Scottish Government about the future development and growth of the marine and outdoors sector. This is an important sector of the economy for this area as a whole and people are being encouraged to register their interest in the process at https://bts.scot/outdoors-scotland-strategy/get-in-touch/
We have also been circulated details of the £800,000 COVID-19 Marine and Outdoor Tourism Restart Fund: Round Two, which is being delivered by VisitScotland on behalf of the Scottish Government. The fund is open from 8th September to 29th September, The Fund is intended to provide support to marine and outdoor tourism businesses who have been significantly affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19). Round Two is to specifically support Scottish-based businesses in the marine and outdoor tourism sector that have faced hardship due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to help keep them in business as they recommence operations, and you can find more details of this on the VisitScotland website.
As a member of the British Ports Association, we get regular updates from them, and one of these was a summary of the SNP and Scottish Green’s draft policy programme, which includes a commitment from both parties to a Natural Environment Bill, under which there will be a set of legally binding targets to protect and restore Scotland’s biodiversity by 2030, including marine habitats. Their plans include adding to the existing MPA network by designating Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of Scotland’s seas. There is also an intention to take specific, evidence-based measures to protect the inshore seabed in areas outwith these designations. To do this they will consult on a number of proposals, including:
– applying a cap to fishing activity in inshore waters (up to three nautical miles) that will limit activity to current levels and set a ceiling from which activities that disrupt the seabed can be reduced in the light of evidence as it becomes available,
– keeping that limit under review, pending fuller consideration and gathering of evidence to underpin any further actions required to protect inshore marine habitats. These could span a suite of options and could potentially include spatial management measures if suggested by the evidence,
– through this system, providing access only to vessels that hold a licence which has a historic track record of fishing activity in inshore waters over a recent reference period,
– in the first instance and in the interests of delivering this as soon as possible, bringing this measure into effect by varying certain existing licence conditions pending the introduction of appropriate legislative measures, and
– also reviewing the status of any unused ‘latent’ scallop fishing entitlements. Where no investment has already been made to activate that entitlement, such as vessel conversion in cases where an owner has committed to changing fishing method, these entitlements would be revoked.
As a fishing Harbour, we will be interested in how these proposals develop, and will keep you all informed!
We are also continuing to work away in the background with the plans for the Outer Harbour Development, and have commissioned some ground investigation works to start 6th September. These will include boreholes, which will be drilled from a cantilever platform on the edge of the quay in six locations along the inner edge of the outer breakwater, and 4 grab samples to be taken from a small boat. We have issued a Notice to Mariners about the works, which are due to last until the end of September, and this can be viewed in the Notice to Mariners section of the website.