The fishing industry in Tarbert was well established by the 1800’s and this heritage village was arguably built on herring.
The controversial ring-net method was developed by local fishermen and became lethal in its efficiency, causing concern to the authorities who outlawed its use for an 8 year period. However, it was legalised again in 1867, and used for many years to come. By 1921, there were approximately 40 pairs of skiff vessels engaged in fishing, using the method. Soon Harbour Street became lined with ‘Farlans’ – purpose built, salt-filled barrels – and women who gutted, cleaned and cured the catches as they landed.
Larger trawler vessels eventually replaced the skiffs, and methods began to change. Restrictive laws and a natural decrease in herring numbers in the latter years of the 20th century lead to an industry downfall, and the local fishermen turned their attention to the more lucrative shellfish.
Today, the fleet remains healthy and active, and still plays a pivotal role to the local economy and community. The majority of vessels catch prawns, which are enjoyed in local establishments and across the country and beyond.
A walk along the harbour-side will enlighten you further on the commercial activity of yesterday and today. Look out for historical information plaques along the way, spot the two skiffs at the head of the harbour, and admire today’s fleet on the quayside.
You can also find Shemaron, an old ring net boat, berthed on the marina pontoons.
The Ring Net Heritage Trust is a great source of historical information and their giftware is also available in the Chandlery.