The islands of The Outer Hebrides are some of the wildest landscapes of the UK, and the second least populated area in Europe. As such, the islanders live immersed in the realm of nature and many still rely on their surroundings for income and survival.
As is the case with most islands in the Hebrides, South Uist has an ageing and decreasing population. As many of the younger generations, tempted by modernity, leave for the mainland, traditional ways of life are disappearing. Technology and information may have a hand to play in the migration of the young, but this is not the only threat to the traditions of South Uist.
Industrial scale fishing is threatening the livelihoods of local fishermen and devastating the naturally rich biomass due to licensed over fishing and contentious political legalities such as bi-catch. Back on land, global warming is said to be changing the patterns of weather that generations have learnt to farm in harmony with.
Historically, fishing, farming and peating were essential to survival and although many islanders still practice these traditions, modernity and convenience are often more attractive; offering lifestyle choices similar to that of the mainland.
57° North, explores these issues with John Jo MacDonald, a 67 year old lobster fisherman who has worked the sea his whole life. As John Jo invites us into the details of his life, we see his idea of a solution at first hand: withholding traditions such as line fishing and yet embracing the positive modern changes such as wind power to become almost entirely self sufficient. Despite his attempts to make ethical choices he is still victim to environmental issues outside of his control.
John Jo’s words echo throughout the film showing us at first hand the impact of overfishing, demonstrating the damage already done and highlighting the future problems the next generations will have to contend with.
Full of character and Celtic charm, 57° North gives a large voice to a humble fisherman, who’s opinions are based on experience and not fishing quotas.