A scallop dredger and some scallops sizzling in the pan.
By Lizzie Healey
Scallops and Stornoway black pudding. There could be no better Scottish starter for Christmas dinner this year.
Most of us love shellfish. Mussels, whelks, lobsters and langoustines.
However, far were we reared from lobsters and langoustines.
The mussels most of us first tasted were clabby dhus or “clabbies” – black shells collected as near to home as Cardross and Garelochhead and along the loch shores at Whistlefield and Carrick Castle.
So many of these shores are polluted now that only a very foolish person would eat any shellfish gathered there.
But most people would devour scallops, which have become a great delicacy in restaurants from Mallaig to Manchester to Madrid.
That is why scallops are so sought after – and so expensive.
And why unscrupulous fishermen are taking to their trawlers at dead of night to scoop them off the seabed in the West Coast of Scotland.
It’s against the law to harvest scallops by dredging the seabed – but it goes on.
Kevin Keane, BBC Scotland’s environment correspondent, reported this week that divers say they have filmed evidence of suspected illegal scallop dredging in a protected area near Oban.
They said footage showed a “suspicious” boat at night in the Firth of Lorn Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Although the film did not show dredge gear in use, divers say they subsequently visited the seabed and found damage in keeping with dredging.
The evidence has been presented to concerned groups in the town and is being investigated by Marine Scotland.
Dredging in the SAC off Oban was banned 12 years ago. The film was shown at a meeting following concern over a growing number of dredging incidents and frustration that little was being done about them.
Last month, Marine Scotland confirmed it had received reports of two incidents of illegal scallop dredging near Loch Gairloch in Wester Ross.
About 50 people attended Wednesday night’s meeting, including conservationists, community groups, divers and creel fishermen.
A Scottish government spokesman said: “We are of course wholly against illegal dredging, which is completely unacceptable. Strict regulation rightly applies to dredging activity.
“Cases of suspected illegal dredging in the Firth or Lorne have been reported to Marine Scotland and compliance officers are investigating the activities of a number of suspect vessels.”
Marine Scotland said electronic monitoring of higher risk vessels operating in sensitive areas would come into force next year. Tracking of all vessels under 12 metres will be introduced from 2020.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation did not respond to requests for comment.
Busy harbour – Oban where the shellfish are landed and are a big favourite with visitors to the local restaurants on the pier.