Huge herring spawning ground discovered in Wester Ross

A huge spawning ground for herring has been discovered near Gairloch in Wester Ross.

The ground, thought to be around three square kilometres, was discovered by scallop divers who operate in the area.

Scientists from Marine Scotland are examining egg samples from the site to try to identify their genetics.

It is hoped the find is a positive step towards the restoration of herring stocks which were wiped out by overfishing in the 1960s and 70s.

The site is south west of Gairloch village at a point where the Inner Sound meets the Minch. It straddles a marine area which is closed to dredging boats and there are now calls for that protection to be extended across the whole spawning ground. The concern is that gear dragged along the sea bed would damage the eggs when they are at their most vulnerable.

Diver Alex Cameron was one of the first to discover the site. He told BBC Scotland News: “It’s just as if there’s been a hail storm through it and there is loads of hail on the sea bed floor, obviously with the hail being the herring eggs. The whole place is absolutely covered. “It was pretty amazing, yeah. I have never come across anything like that.”

Efforts have been under way for several years to “rediscover” wild herring around Gairloch. A local project was aiming to document the history of the industry which dominated north west coastal communities for centuries.

But the Wester Ross Fisheries Trust, which was behind the project, now hopes the new discovery could elevate herring out of the history books.

Sue Pomeroy from the trust said: “I’m surprised and excited because herring stocks have fallen since the 1970s. The odd herring in spawn had been found but nothing this size.

“Both Ullapool and Gairloch were founded on the herring industry – it was the keystone subsistence for the people who lived here. Then in the 1920s to the 1950s the fishermen were raking it in, absolutely raking it in. Families and the whole community relied very heavily on the herring industry.”

Read more at BBC News.

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