The exhibition tells the story of how fishing has changed along the Solway coast over the years. Artefacts held in local museums such as limpet hammers date back to Mesolithic times – around 6,000BC. So hand gathered shellfisheries have been important to the local communities of Dumfries and Galloway for a very long time! Originally harvested for local consumption, trends have changed and now most shellfish gathered or landed locally is exported to the continent where it is prized for its high quality.
As well as providing the historic and cultural background for fishing along the Solway coast, the Fishy Tales exhibition brings visitors up to date with modern commercial sea fisheries. These are diverse and include the valuable king and queen scallop fisheries which are so important to the rural economy of Galloway providing many jobs in the catching and processing sectors.
The exhibition touches on some of the measures that are in place to ensure fisheries are well managed and sustainable for the future. This includes work local creel fishermen are undertaking at the moment to ensure crab and lobster stocks are protected.
Stake nets are a distinctive feature of the Solway coast and much of the salmon caught this way is smoked locally in artisan smokehouses using traditional wood smoking skills. In the inner part of the Solway small trawlers fish for tiny brown shrimps which were once caught in nets pulled by sailing boats. At the opposite end of the region, the wild native oyster fishery at Loch Ryan is unique in being the only one in Scotland.
Nic Coombey of Solway Firth Partnership says: “The exhibition will be of interest to both local people and visitors and we will be bringing it to different places along the Solway coast over the coming months. Meanwhile, it’s at the Mill on the Fleet until 22nd July so we hope people in the local area will get along to see it there.”
The Mill on the Fleet is open 7 days a week between 10am and 5pm and admission is free. The Fishy Tales exhibition is part of a wider project, Out of the Blue, which aims to promote understanding of local fisheries and the delicious seafood landed in Dumfries and Galloway. The project is funded by the European Fisheries Fund and Dumfries and Galloway Council.