Positive signals for Stornoway fishing fleet

Macduff’s general manager, Iain MacleodMacduff’s general manager, Iain Macleod
Macduff’s general manager, Iain Macleod
​Short courses are to be revived at the Stornoway campus of UHI to encourage new local recruits into the fishing industry as demand grows for crews.

With the Stornoway fleet expanding and good earnings available, the industry is again seen as an attractive option while vessel owners need to recruit locally as the supply of migrant labour dries up.

The three-week courses will offer a grounding in the industry leading to potential careers.

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A spokeswoman for UHI North, West and Hebrides confirmed to the Gazette: “We are just in the process of setting the course up. We are working with Seafish on this”.

Seafish is the public body which supports the fishing industry throughout the UK and its Introduction to Commercial Fishing (ICF) course “gives new entrants a basic knowledge and awareness of different activities that are commonplace aboard commercial fishing vessels.”

The training includes four mandatory one-day courses which are legally required to enable working on a fishing vessel. These are about sea survival, health and safety, first aid and firefighting .

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association are also supportive of the initiative. It comes at a time when the local fleet is expanding, largely due to demand for prawns created by the Macduff shellfish processing factory at Goat Island.

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Macduff’s general manager, Iain Macleod, said: “We are seeing more local crew joining the boats now. There is definitely an opportunity to make a good living and more young people are interested again locally.

“There are now 12 trawlers working out of Stornoway and landing to Goat Island. That includes four which are completely new to the fleet within the past couple of years”.

He said it was now “very difficult to navigate the legal requirements” to recruit foreign labour because of post-Brexit restrictions. He welcomed the prospect of courses which would “get local people on the ladder to becoming fishermen”.

Another sign of confidence is that six of the Stornoway-based trawlers headed for the east coast prior to the start of the prawn season for re-fit and painting, returning to their home base in tip-top condition. “That is unheard of in recent years”, said Mr Macleod.

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Demand for Macduff’s Wild-Caught Hebridean Langoustines is continuing to grow and they are now being marketed in 18 countries, from Japan to North America. “We had visitors from Australia recently and also from Germany. That is a market we are going to try to grow”, said Mr Macleod.

Macduff, which is part of the Canadian owned Clearwater group, also collects catches from mainland ports like Lochinver and Gairloch before trucking them to Stornoway for processing. Mr Macleod says: “They’re all the same prawns from the Minch”.

Duncan Macinnes, secretary of the Western Isles Fishermen’s Association and depute leader of the Comhairle, said: “It is good to have such a positive story to report about the fishing industry which is under pressure on so many fronts.

“We are confident that there will be a demand for the training course at the Castle when it gets underway.”