Fishermen expand their Handa tourism venture
Two fishermen with over 50 years’ experience between them are expanding their business to attract more tourists to the north-west Highlands.
Roger Tebay and Paul Murray of Scourie pooled their resources in 2008 to form Handa Shellfish. Fishing predominantly during the winter months, they run a ferry service in summer from Tarbet to the internationally renowned seabird island of Handa.
They are now increasing the number of boats they own to three to provide additional wildlife forays along the Sutherland coastline.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise is supporting the seafarers in the venture which aims to provide additional services to and around the island, enhance local tourism provision and increase the amount of time visitors stay locally.
Working with their colleague James Forsyth, an experienced diver, Roger and Paul plan to run the new boats from Scourie harbour. They can take 10 to 12 people on each vessel.
Paul said: “We think this is the most beautiful place in the world and we want to share some of the spectacular seabird and marine wildlife experiences that we are lucky enough to enjoy every day.
“Our boat trips would travel round Badcall Islands and along the coastline at Eddrachilles Bay where dolphins, basking sharks and minke whales have all been seen. We will also be able to provide private charters for fishing and diving excursions.”
During the summer season the boat can also provide an additional service to Handa, offering tourists more flexible sailings. The island, which is owned by Dr Jean Balfour and the Scourie Estate, attracts visitors from around the world to see its 200,000 birds.
Other than the Scottish Wildlife Trust ranger and volunteers who stay on Handa to greet the 6000 summer visitors each year, the island has been uninhabited since 1847 when the last of its 60 residents emigrated to Nova Scotia.
HIE was involved in helping the fishing duo set up their business two years ago and the agency says it is pleased they are now expanding. It awarded the business £23,500 to help buy the two boats.
Development manager Morag Goodfellow said: “HIE is unique in the world as a development agency with a social and economic remit. We are delighted to be working with Handa Shellfish to look at ways to not only help them grow their business but also support tourism in what is one of our most beautiful but rural and remote mainland areas.”
She added: “Both Roger and Paul are passionate about raising awareness of the natural environment in north-west Sutherland. They themselves choose to fish sustainably and conserve fish stocks over the summer months by focusing on the tourism side of the business.
“By stimulating their business to grow, they can expand their workforce and create permanent local jobs. The project has the ability to strengthen the whole life of the community.”
- Our picture shows diving expert James Forsyth (left) with Paul Murray and Roger Tebay (right) of Handa Shellfish. Photo: Angus Mackay / HIE