Land and Sea - Closing the Minch

Closing The Minch

Tolsta fishermen who went out to protect their nets from a poaching seine netter in Broad Bay were 'fired on' by the crew of the netter who pelted them with potatoes and coal and turned a hose on them.

Councillor Allan Cameron, North Tolsta told the story to Ross and Cromarty County Council at their last meeting. The council decided to seek the support of other local authorities in the crofting counties in asking the Scottish Home Department to close the Minch to trawlers and seine netters.

Mr Cameron was speaking in support of a complaint from Lewis District Council about the amount of illegal seine netting and trawling going on in the Minch.

Recalling how unsuccessful previous representations on the subject had been, Sir John Stirling, County Convener, said that he saw little point in making a further approach. Lewis members, however, spoke in favour of continuing to press the matter.

Mr Cameron told the council that inshore fishermen at Tolsta Head were going ashore after laying their nets a fortnight ago when they heard the throb of an engine and saw a seine netter coming in without lights. When the local fishermen went out to protect their gear, the crew of the seine netter pelted them.

  The idea of closing the Minch is not a new one. A request was made as far back as 1945 to a committee of the Scottish Council on Industry. This committee refused to recommend that the Minch be closed to trawling. (Mr M.K. Macmillan, a member of the committee, recorded his dissent).

The committee however recommended that part of the coastline of Lewis should be regarded as running from Tolsta Head to Tiumpan Head and from Bayble to the Eastmost point of the Shiants and that trawling should be prohibited within three miles to seaward of that imaginary coastline.

This would have given the Broad Bay fishermen a considerable stretch outside the bay, which would be suitable for seine netting and a further stretch between Tiumpan Head and the Shiants for line fishing. None of the committee's recommendations on the subject were ever acted upon and no benefit resulted to the local fishermen.

There have been suggestions since the 'stoning' incident that Broad Bay fishermen should carry rifles for self defence against marauding East Coast boats. A prominent member of the fishing community said, "W e do not want to be shooting at anybody, but if they know we are armed they may be more careful."