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Spring spawning herring rediscovered to west of Gairloch

Posted: Tuesday 27 March, 2018 @ 03:56:20

Eyed herring eggs on a scallop shell (photo by Alasdair Hughson)

Former herring fishermen, when interviewed by Sue Pomeroy for Wester Ross Fisheries Trust and Two Lochs Radio in 2012, highlighted the importance of ‘coral’ (local fishermen’s name for maerl) as a spawning habitat for herring, and in particular the area around Melvaig.

During February 2018, the Scottish Pelagic Fisherman’s Association [SPFA], in collaboration with the Scottish Government and other partners, led a survey of winter and spring spawning herring in and around the Minch and Outer Isles. On 17th February 2018, large shoals of herring were encountered by the pelagic trawler ‘Unity’ to the west of Melvaig just outside Loch Gairloch, estimated at between 3000 and 4000 tonnes. Samples of these fish indicated that they were very close to spawning, and may indeed have been on spawning grounds.

On 26th February 2018, a follow-up video survey of the seabed where the Unity recorded the herring marks was undertaken by the Skye and Wester Ross Fisheries Trust [SWRFT] and the Scottish Natural Heritage [SNH] marine survey team. Much live maerl can be seen in the videos (mostly fragmented and mixed with shells and sand), however the survey failed to find herring eggs.

So, there was much excitement earlier this week when a team of local scallop divers reported finding herring eggs covering a large area of seabed to the west of South Erradale, just outside Loch Gairloch.

Read the full report in our downloads section.