29th September '23

Erin MacKenzie

“Dredging and trawling provide food sustainably. We have to preserve generations-old skills and knowledge.”

Deckhand, Shellfish vessel

Location: Mallaig

At just 19 years old, Erin MacKenzie represents a new generation entering the Scottish fishing industry. Hailing from the picturesque harbour town of Mallaig, Erin grew up watching her father and uncle fish. Now she is carrying on this family legacy as a fisherwoman herself.

"It's definitely in my blood," says Erin, who started working on fishing boats when she was 18. After college courses in maritime skills, Erin landed a job on a scallop dredger before joining her father on the prawn trawler Caralisa.

Erin loves being out at sea, taking in the wildlife and gaining new experiences. She finds great satisfaction in catching, tailing and processing prawns from start to finish. However, Erin acknowledges the job is far from easy for her young 5'4 frame, struggling at times to reach equipment on the boat.

Yet the most frustrating challenge Erin sees is the lack of young recruits entering fishing. With crews sparse, Erin worries about the industry's future as boats disappear from once bustling harbours like Mallaig. She believes today's youth are deterred by the intensely physical workload and lack of time off compared to other professions.

According to Erin, fishing holds an integral place in coastal communities through tourism and supplying local cafes and restaurants. She disputes claims by environmental groups that methods like dredging and trawling are highly damaging, arguing they provide food sustainably.

While Erin supports protecting areas to allow fish stocks to recover, she opposes extensive fishing bans resulting from unjustified policies. With boats already struggling, she believes limiting grounds further could devastate harbours relying on fishing.

Instead, Erin suggests focusing on spreading boats across grounds more evenly, avoiding too much intensive fishing focused on small areas. She also advocates preserving fishing heritage before generations-old skills and knowledge are lost for good.

"It would just be horrendous if we had to end that," says Erin, who one day hopes to inspire more young recruits to the industry she loves.

With youthful passion and a deep appreciation of Scottish fishing's rich history, Erin MacKenzie brings a glimmer of hope for fishing’s future, if more will follow in her wake.

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