The seaside resort of Ayr, on the Scottish southwest coast, used to be famous for its large trawling fleet, but the lack of activity in the harbor last summer has reflected the great rundown in offshore fishing throughout the United Kingdom.
Scotland has been badly affected by overfishing on its once well-stocked western and eastern seaboards. Rising fuel costs and inflation have reduced the great herring boat fleets from Ayr and nearby ports to solitary boats engaged in fierce competition with modern Common Market trawlers and fast Spanish vessels.
Scots skippers are particularly concerned about mass fishing by European community (EC) boats, some of which are said to operate illegally within the 12 -mile sea zone of Scotland. Scots trawler owners have also complained bitterly about Soviet and Polish vessels "overfishing" and scooping up huge shoals of herring for processing in giant factory ships.
But it is the inshore "raiding" of Danish, French, Dutch, and other EC-owned vessels that has provoked Scottish fishermen to ask the British government to take a tougher stand in the Common Market about protecing the U.K. from fleets of aggressive foreign trawlers.
Scotland will get a large part of the $:14 million ($33.6 million) aid promised to the fishing industry by the Thatcher government, but the aim is only to help fishermen over six months. The U.K. is negotiating with Common Market countries about limiting EC fishing activity around Britain's coast, and some British trawler owners have said that 1,000 British boats will be laid up by Easter if the U.K. does not take a firm stand against its European alliance partners.
A spokesman for the Scottish National Party has said that 400 Scots fishing vessels, a large part of Scotland's total number of trawlers, have been laid up. The vast majority of these boats are based in northeast Scotland -- some fishermen have taken jobs with North Sea oil operators. Others have been trying to supplement their dwindling incomes with fish farms. The west coast of Scotland, which produces the famous Loch Fyne kippers (cured herring) for some British breakfast tables, has many sea lochs, or lakes, suitable for breeding special types of fish.
But the port of Stornaway in the northwest has also been badly affected by fierce competitive foreign fishing and rising operational costs.
The great fishing center at Hull on the east coast of England has been severely hit by restrictions imposed by the Icelandic government on foreign trawlers.