Highlands & Islands

Mallaig fish fleet's road to ruin

Image caption Half the number of boats are in the Mallaig fleet compared with a decade ago

The sea is intrinsically linked to the fortunes of the west coast village of Mallaig.

Lying at the end of the Road to the Isles, it provides a terminus for ferry services to and from Skye, the Small Isles and Knoydart.

But as BBC Scotland's Jackie O'Brien reports, Mallaig's other mainstay of fishing has been in decline.

Skipper Tom MacLean stands watching his fishing boat being broken up.

He is one of three brothers to take up decommissioning - a scheme paying owners to have their fishing boats destroyed.

Low fish stocks, European quotas on catches and high fuel prices have led the MacLeans and others to have their vessels removed from the fleet.

Tom says: "She's a 16m wooden trawler twin rigger prawner that fished out of Mallaig.

"What you see here is just scrap metal ready for the smelter."

He adds: "I am not the type of guy who gets sentimental that much, but when they started taking the wheelhouse off...well who want's to do this?"

A decade ago 70 fishing boats could be seen in Mallaig's harbour.

In recent years the numbers of visiting vessels has declined while the village's own fleet has been reduced by half - leaving 17 boats.

The long-established seaman's mission has been put up for sale and the local boatyard has closed.

Robert MacMillan, of Mallaig Harbour Authority, says it has been dramatic to witness the change in the port.

He adds: "The harbour authority has to diversify and fade away from the fishing industry, which is dying on its feet, and moving into pastures new."

There is some optimism with work starting on a small yachting marina and locals raising funds to buy the Seaman's Mission.

Community councillor Johnny MacMillan said the decline in fishing was like a landward village losing income from passing trade because of the building of a new bypass.

He said: "Mallaig has always been a vibrant village and hopefully we will keep it so."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites