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News from Mallaig Harbour: November 2023

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It’s the beginning of November, and after some remarkably good weather compared to the rest of the country, it feels like Winter has arrived! We are hosting the Screen Machine once again, and some of you may have already seen their plea for support for their request for financial assistance from the Scottish Government to keep the Screen Machine in operation. We have written a letter from Mallaig Harbour Authority, as the host for the Screen Machine in Mallaig, in support of this request. If you enjoy their visits to Mallaig, there is still time for you to do the same.

The Harbour always feels much quieter when the winter CalMac timetable starts, and this year is no exception. The Lord of The Isles was sailing to Mallaig this week, but is then off for her annual refit, and won’t be back until the end of November. We’ve received the Design Statement for the proposed overnight berth from our Engineers, Wallace Stone, so we have a bit of work to do over the winter to make sure it suits all the different needs, and then to persuade Transport Scotland of the benefit of funding it!

It’s the time of year when Marine Scotland publish their annual landings data for the year. The headline figures for the Mallaig District this year were that 1,385 tonnes were landed, with a value of £5,935,000. This was an increase in value of 22.8%, the second highest of any Scottish District, and a very slight decrease in tonnage of 0.4%.

It’s worth noting that these figures from Marine Scotland are for the Mallaig District, and not just the port. The district covers the whole of Ardnamurchan, the Small Isles and the North Shore of Loch Linnhe to Fort William, so not all the fish included in these figures was landed into Mallaig. However, we are always asked to comment on these headline numbers, so we do a bit of our own analysis. Our records of reported landings from the vessels through Mallaig, which are by financial year rather than calendar year, actually showed an increase in the quantity of landings between the y/e March 2022 and 2023 of 40%, from 522,215kg to 733,829kg. From this, it’s evident that only around half the landings into the District are actually made through Mallaig.

From our figures, average shellfish prices increased by 36.25% between 2021/22 and 2022/23, while average white fish prices decreased by 33%. The total value of landings through Mallaig increased from £2.4million in 2021/22 to £4.8million in 2022/23, an increase of 100%.

Once again, Peterhead topped the landings tables, with 154,883 tonnes landed, worth £191,060,000. I was through in Peterhead for the British Ports Association’s Fishing Ports Group meeting on the 5th and 6th October, and we were given a tour of the Peterhead fish market while the market was in progress on the Friday morning. It’s on a different scale altogether from Mallaig, as you will see from the photos.  The whole port is on a different scale – but it’s always good to go and see other Ports and to have the chance to discuss common issues. The scale of operations at various ports might vary significantly, but many of the challenges are similar. 

The Marina is now closed for the season, and Gena has finished for the Winter. As some of you will know, Chris Jones has been off for a period. We’re looking forward to having him back in the next week or so, but we’re also very grateful to Gena for holding the fort in his absence, and to Kenny Harris, Ross Carr and Ruairidh McDonell who all stepped in to help keep the Marina running smoothly at various times over the summer. Looking at the figures for the year this was our busiest season since the Marina opened, with 1,857 nights occupied by visiting boats over the season, as well as a number of regular charters operating from Mallaig.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: October 2023

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Autumn is definitely in the air, and although we missed out on the worst of the weather associated with storm Agnes, the unsettled weather has meant that the boats have been tied up for most of the last week, and the harbour has been busy with fish farm vessels seeking shelter too. There have been a couple of unusual weather incidents this month. On Tuesday 12th into Wednesday 13th September, the Northern Lights put on quite a show above the village, so much so that our CCTV in the Marina was even able to capture them through the glare of the streetlights. On Thursday 28th, I looked up from my desk to see the most unusual sun. I know you shouldn’t look at the sun directly, but it took me a minute to decide whether it was actually the sun or the moon!  Apparently, it was due to the smoke from wildfires in America.

The Marina has quietened down considerably, although there are still occasional yachts calling in on their way South. We have had a busy season, and for the first two weeks in September 55 vessels used the pontoon, compared to 39 in 2022. On Wednesday 27th September, the students from the Marine Training Centre were taking advantage of the calm before the storm to get a bit of practical experience in using the RIB when we got a call at the Harbour office from a yacht making for the Marina who had engine trouble. The students got to experience a real life scenario when their tutor kindly agreed to take them out and escort the yacht into the harbour, eventually towing it as there wasn’t enough wind for it to make steady progress.

We have had a fair bit of interest in the Deputy Harbour Master post. The closing date is not until 27th October, to allow for the October holidays, so there is still a bit of time for anyone with an interest to submit an application. All the information on the post, including how to apply, is on our website or in an advert in WestWord.

We had an oil spill response exercise on 20th September.  Briggs Marine, who provide support services to us in the event of an oil spill, were on site to go through a scenario with us. The exercise tested all aspects of our response, from the co-ordination to the practical application of the training the staff have in how to contain and clean up an oil spill. The Loch Bhrusda was used as the ‘casualty’, with booms floated around her in the berth in the Outer Harbour, and a demonstration of an oil skimmer. As well as our own staff, we had representatives from the MCA, and staff from Denholms, CalMac and Scottish Seafarms who attended to provide support and learn about what to do in a real incident. We’re always grateful when the other businesses who use the Harbour work with us to supplement our small team of staff! 

The Loch Nevis has been away for her annual refit, and is due to return on the 30th September, while the Loch Fyne attempted to leave us for the season on 29th September but had to turn back due to the stormy weather. The intention was that from Saturday 30th September until 19th October, the Loch Bhrusda would be operating alongside the Coruisk to Skye. However, issues elsewhere in the network now mean that the Coruisk will be the only vessel on the Skye run, until she leaves on 19th October. This means that from Friday 20th to Sunday 22nd October, there will be no vehicle service to Skye – a passenger service will be operated by the Larven. The Winter timetable then starts on Monday 23rd October. It seems incredible that this is less than a month away!

Finally, huge congratulations to Mallaig FC, who have already won the West Highland Amateur Football’s William Wilson League; and the Ross Cup. They were on for the treble if they had been able to beat North West Skye on 30th September in Portree – unfortunately, this wasn’t to be, despite us all having our fingers crossed for them at the Harbour! They’ve had a great season once again, and we’re proud that our sponsorship plays a small part in their success.

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: September 2023

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August seems to have passed in a flash, and we are already into September! It has felt like a very quick month with not much of note to report. The yachting season is drawing to an end, although the good weather in the first week of September has given the Marina a wee boost. Both the Blue Clipper and the Eda Frandsen will have finished their season in Mallaig by the time you read this, which is always a sign for us in the Harbour that summer is over!

The Harbour was the setting for the Maritime day on Sunday 13th August, to raise funds for the Mallaig RNLI and RNMDSF (Fishermen’s Mission). Although the weather wasn’t great on the day, it was dry for a few hours, and it seemed to be just enough to encourage everyone to come and spend their money. It was nice to see the Gala Day back on the Harbour, albeit in a smaller format than previous years. The Mallaig, Ardnamurchan and District (MaaD) Pipe Band opened proceedings, and then played to welcome the Steam Train into Mallaig, so that encouraged some of the visitors to the area onto the Harbour to spend their money! The pipe band are back to regular Monday evening practices now that the schools are back in, and while the weather is good, they are hoping to do these on the bandstand, so listen out for them!

We are always a bit behind by the time we collate all fishing landing information, but the visiting fishing vessels continued into July, and as for last year, the value of landings for the month of July was over £1million, which is positive news for both the Harbour and the fleet!

The work at Eigg to remove rock from the approach to the ferry berth took much longer than first anticipated, so the Wyre Estuary was berthing overnight in the Harbour for the whole month of August, rather than the fortnight that they had planned for. This should hopefully mean the end of tidal sailings for the Loch Nevis – but she is away for her annual overhaul at the moment, so the Loch Bhrusda and the Larven are covering. We lost both the Coruisk and the Loch Bhrusda for a few days at the end of August – the Coruisk to Oban for the Mull run and the Loch Bhrusda to Berneray for the Sound of Harris run. Both have now returned to Mallaig.   

August is also the month when parking invoices / permits are issued. Because we have been a bit short staffed, we haven’t managed to issue these yet, but we will be sending out terms and conditions along with the permits this year. We know that parking is a nightmare in the village, but it’s equally a nightmare for us when people park randomly on the Harbour. During the winter months, when it’s quieter, we try to be more lenient with this, but there seems to have been a steady stream of parking issues over the last few weeks. Please don’t park in a space unless you have either a permit to be in that space, or express permission from the permit holder. We have three visitor spaces behind the prawn market, which are intended for visitors to the Harbour Office, or contractors we have working for us. We don’t mind if these are empty and someone uses them to nip to the shop – especially outwith office hours, but many of the issues that have arisen lately are because these are being used as unofficial parking spaces. We’ve also noticed people using Scottish Seafarms spaces (alongside their office and in the area adjacent to our workshop). Scottish Seafarms staff are now back working in Mallaig, and need these spaces again so if you have been sneakily using one of these, then please don’t! It’s always a challenge in the summer months, and easier in the winter, so many of these issues will be resolved in the next few weeks when things quieten down, but I thought it was worth just reminding everyone. We’d love to be able to accommodate all those who ask for spaces, but it’s just not possible, and at the moment we have a waiting list of over 30 people for the spaces we do have.

We’re still working away in the background on developments for the Outer Harbour, including the new overnight ferry berth, and ways of achieving some of the other projects we had hoped to do if our funding application had been successful. We’re hoping to undertake an economic impact assessment over the next couple of months, which will enable us to make our case more strongly with funders. This will require the successful consultant to consult with some of our key stakeholders, including the communities served by the harbour. We hope to have this done over the winter months, when people have a bit more time to contribute.

Finally this month, we have an advert placed in West Word and in our vacancy page on this web-site for a Deputy Harbour Master. We are hoping to recruit someone who will be able to work alongside our existing Harbour Master, Pimmy, with a view to becoming Harbour Master at some point in the future. We realise that Pimmy’s shoes are going to be big shoes to fill when the time does eventually come, but there’s a lot of knowledge to be shared, so we thought we should start the search for a successor!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: August 2023

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Thankfully the weather did hold for the Marina Fun Day, even although the Bucking Bronco unfortunately cancelled on the morning of the event because the forecast wasn’t looking good. Feedback was that the day was enjoyed by everyone who attended, and I have to say a special thanks to Pimmy and Audrey who as usual were behind the scenes making sure everything went smoothly. Thanks are also due to Nevis Estates who provided refreshments for the day; to Andy and Rose, Ross and Helen who helped with the barbecue throughout the day; to Allan MacKenzie for piping and to those from the RNLI and Fishermen’s Mission who manned the stalls and provided entertainment for the younger ones.

The Marina has had a busy season so far. For the first four weeks in July we had 455 berth nights occupied, which compares well to last year’s total of 454 for the whole month, and even to 2019’s total of 498 for the month. We are seeing a trend of larger vessels, which reduces the capacity of the marina, and regular visits from the Pellew, Eda Frandsen and Selkie mean that the hammerheads are also well used. Pellew has now left us for the season, but Eda Frandsen is with us until 11th September. We have also welcomed back the Blue Clipper this month, who along with Provident is using the Harbour as both are too heavy for the pontoons.  Last month I mentioned we were a member of staff down on the Harbour. Hugh is still off, and Chris has also had to take time off from the Marina this month, so we have been juggling staffing a bit. Ross and Gena have been holding the fort in Chris’ absence, joined by Ruairidh, who came home from college for a break and was landed straight in at the deep end! We are really appreciative of our staff who step up to keep things operating as normal regardless of what is thrown at them!  

Fishing has also remained steady throughout the month, with reasonable catches being landed by our local and some visiting boats. This has mainly been shellfish, and very limited quantities of white fish. After the really low landings of 2020 and 2021, it’s great to see them picking up a bit – although I realise that it’s all relative, and that the landings being made are much lower than even 10 years ago!

We said goodbye to the Reul a’Chuain this month, as her new owner, Justin, sailed off to start the boat’s next chapter after spending several months working on her in the Harbour.

We met with Kate Forbes on 17th July to talk through our plans for the Harbour and look at alternative funding options and how to progress with the project. Kate also took the opportunity to meet with some of the local fisherman to talk through their concerns about HPMA’s and to listen to their thoughts on what any replacement proposals should consider.

We also had a debrief with the Scottish Islands Federation and others who were involved in the Marine Litter Pilot, which resulted in ropes and nets from the Small Isles and Skye being taken for recycling by Ocean Plastic Pots, supported by Keep Britain Tidy. We all agreed that the initiative had worked well, and can hopefully be repeated again next year.

Some of you will have noticed accommodation cabins have arrived in the West Bay car park in the first week of August. These have been brought up by Wyre Marine Services, who have the contract to remove rock off the harbour in Eigg, which has been causing a disruption to ferry services. The work is due to take two weeks, and the cabins have been brought in for crew accommodation, as they weren’t able to secure alternative accommodation locally.

Finally, the Mallaig branches of the RNLI and Fishermens’ Mission fundraising groups are hosting a gala day on the Harbour on Sunday 13th August. This will be the first gala day since pre-pandemic, and will be on a slightly smaller scale than previous gala days. It’s being held on Sunday as there were no suitable Saturday dates that didn’t clash with other events. If you are in the area, please come along and support there two worthwhile causes!

Jacqueline McDonell

News from Mallaig Harbour: July 2023

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The weather broke, just in time for the school holidays, and this meant that we had to postpone the proposed Sea Angling Competition on 1st July. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the rain stays off long enough on Saturday 8th July for us to host our first Marina Fun Day since 2019. 

Fishing has remained steady throughout the month, and prices for shellfish have been good. We have welcomed a few visiting boats throughout the month, although not as many as last year. There have also been some changes to the well boats harvesting salmon this month, with the Ronja Challenger being redeployed to Canada, and the Ronja Viking operating from Mallaig throughout the month.

We held our AGM on Friday 16th June, and said goodbye to Shona MacLeay, who had served her first term as a Board Member, and, due to other commitments, had decided not to reapply. We welcomed Peter Hillier, who had been co-opted onto the Board last year, as a full Board Member.

It has felt like a month of meetings – after the disappointment of not getting the DEFRA funding we are looking at various alternatives, which has involved lots of discussion with various groups and organisations to raise the profile of what we are trying to do.

Many of you will have seen the news last week that Mairi McAllan, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition, announced that the proposal to develop HPMAs (Highly Protected Marine Areas) as consulted on, will not be progressed. This means that the Government will no longer seek to implement HPMAs across 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas by 2026. Although this was widely reported on as HPMA’s being scrapped, it’s actually not as straightforward as this. The government intends to develop a new pathway and timetable for their work to enhance marine protection, which will be in line with their draft biodiversity strategy and ambition for Scotland to be nature positive by 2030. However, there was a recognition that this needs to be done in consultation with the communities impacted, so we will look forward to engaging with whatever comes next, and working with the fishing industry locally to ensure the best possible outcomes for the local area. Prior to the Ministerial announcement, the Seafood Sector had gathered at the Scottish Parliament on 15th June to launch a petition urging the Government to scrap HPMAs. You can find more detail on the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation website,

We welcomed the Lord of the Isles back to Mallaig on 30th June, so for the moment we have a full complement of ferries – lets hope it stays that way for at least the duration of the summer holidays!

We’re a member of staff down at the Harbour at the moment, as Hugh Cameron was able to take advantage of a cancelation at short notice to have a knee operation done, which means that he will be off for much of the summer. Thanks are due to Danny, Simon and Sandy, who are covering and making sure everything runs smoothly in Hugh’s absence. We’ve welcomed back Ross Carr to cover days off at the Marina for the busier summer months.

This month we have granted a lease to Mallaig Men’s Shed for one of the units within the Prawn Market to get themselves established. We’ve also donated the old portacabin from the Marina to them, and it will be moved to the rear of the Prawn Market. Having a base will allow the Men’s Shed to be open more frequently throughout the week, and a bit more space will allow them to take on some small projects. We’re not promising the breakfast rolls that Michelle has been spoiling them with at their regular Monday meetings in the Community Centre though – they might have to make their own tea and coffee! If you are passing the prawn market and see them there, call in for a cup of tea and a blether, and to find out what they are up to – everyone is welcome, young and old!

Finally, we have had a very special visitor to the Harbour Office on more than one occasion this month – baby Fergus McKay De Wilde is Audrey’s second grandchild, and was born on 18th June. Congratulations to Fiona and Leo, and to Granny Audrey!

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