Guga hunter culture revealed by poet
Salted and boiled the guga are eaten as a delicacy. For the uninitiated just the smell can make one wretch but they are prized by the people of of the Isle of Lewis.
The guga are young gannet chicks taken by the guga hunters in an act that some animal rights groups see as akin to seal cub clubbing but others see as integral to the culture of the Isles.
Now the guga hunters get their tale told in a new book by Lewis poet and guga eater Donald S Murray.
His book 'The Guga Hunters' shows the hunters' side of things - how the guga hunt is part of their island culture and should be preserved but it will raise the hackles of of some environmentalist groups. This said gannets are not a bird in danger of extinction and even the RSPB sees the practice as not harming the gannet population.
Chef Gordon Ramsay courted controversy when he cooked and served pickled guga last year.
Here's the Independent's take on it followed by BBC Scotland's coverage:
Every year, late in the summer, villagers from Ness, on the Isle of Lewis, clamber into a small fishing-boat filled with climbing ropes and motor 38 miles north-west towards Sula Sgeir, a dramatic, uninhabited island home to thousands of gannets which spend the summer nesting in guano-covered cliff faces. The hunters' quarry are the guga, young gannet chicks, which salted and boiled, are a pungent and contentious delicacy.
To the men – and it is just men who make the trip – it is a tradition steeped in the ancient and noble culture of one of the British Isles' most staunchly independent communities. Animal rights groups condemn the hunt as a barbaric relic of the past which has no place in modern times, and akin to seal-clubbing. For hundreds of years the villagers have done what they can to keep the guga hunt secret, but the debate has been reignited with a new book which, for the first time, sheds light on the people behind the hunt and why each year they risk life and limb to scale cliffs in the icy-cold Atlantic to collect a dish that is often described as akin to fishy duck.
A new book has gathered tales from the annual guga expedition on the Western Isles.
Donald S Murray's The Guga Hunters is a history of catching young gannets for food on the island of Sulasgeir.
The former English teacher, who now lives on Shetland, also looks at similar hunts for seabirds on the Faroes, Iceland and Orkney.
Mr Murray has also written a pamphlet of poems, called Praising the Guga. The meat is a delicacy on the islands.