IT begins with an unlikely scene – an orange forklift carrying fishing nets along a dirt track, coloured floats swinging as it rounds the bend.

What follows is 90 minutes of surveillance, seals and hunt saboteurs as two filmmakers capture the conflict between Scotland’s last salmon net fishing family and the opponents seeking to beach their boats for good.

The Pullar family have been in the business since the 1960s, with four generations of men involved in their Usan Salmon Fisheries.

But the Moray operation drew fierce criticism from eco-activists over the family’s relationship with wild species such as seabirds and seals, with the former becoming trapped in nets and the latter the target of shooting under licence from the Scottish Government. In 2016 a three-year ban on the centuries-old practice of salmon netting, which catches the fish as they move between sea and river, was imposed following a complaint to the EU.

Opponents – including angling bodies – blamed the practice for harming wild stocks and that short-term bar has now been extended indefinitely by the Scottish Government, forcing the Pullars to bring in their nets and focus on other seasonal catches including lobster, crab and mackerel.

Set to receive its Scottish premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival next Sunday, Of Fish & Foe captures weeks and months of antagonism and argument between the Pullars and conservationists as pressure for that blanket ban increased.

The National:

Shooting during summer 2015, Heike Bachelier and Andy Heathcote of Trufflepig Films followed the family as hunt saboteurs joined volunteers from international charity Sea Shepherd to monitor and record their movements on land and sea.

They also waited outside court after complaints were made over behaviour and fishing practices, covering fines laid down for illegal activities.

The result is nothing like the pair intended. The project began as an attempt to document a disappearing way of life. “We originally wanted to make a beautiful film about the last of Scotland’s traditional salmon net fishermen,” Bachelier said. “We didn’t realise we were walking into a war.

“Just filming the antagonisms was stressful. There was never any reasoning between the Sea Shepherd and the fishermen. Both sides were fighting for their beliefs.”

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Heathcote says the pair found “huge polarisation” between the viewpoints. “That summer was unique,” he says, “in the pressure that came from the activists.

“The Pullars have faced animosity for a few years but it’s come from different sources like anglers. That summer, all those factors came together.

“There are no angels in there. It would have helped the fishermen to keep their mouths shut now and again, but I understand why they got so worked up. The same with the Sea Shepherd.”

The National:

Both sides have been invited to attend the film’s Scottish debut, which follows its world premiere in Canada.

From his home in the Renfrewshire hills, Robert Read of Sea Shepherd UK is unsure what to expect. “They told us they were making a film about wild salmon netting,” he contends. “What they didn’t tell us about at any point since 2015 is that they were actually making a film about eco-activism.

“We didn’t object to them filming us. We don’t have anything to hide.”

Filming campaigns is part of standard Sea Shepherd operations. More than 70 volunteers from 12 nations took part in its two-year Scottish Seal Defence Campaign, part of which is covered in Of Fish & Foe and which also saw salmon farms and other commercial crews under scrutiny.

All those chosen held seal shooting licences from Marine Scotland. These carry strict terms about how many can be killed, as well as in what location and under what conditions.

The organisation staged “covert missions” directed at Usan Salmon Fisheries in an effort to prove restrictions were being breached, posting stills and video clips online to generate support.

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Heathcote and Bachelier’s camera caught the tensions, recording confrontations on land and water over nets, guns and at times simply being present. Tempers flare, words are traded, police are called.

In addition, hunt saboteurs, some concealing their identities, are also watching. According to David Pullar, his family has been subjected to victimisation. “Their disciples came from all over Europe,” he says. “They came up from Sheffield in a minibus.

“I’d rather go out in a storm than put up with the constant, 24-hour-a-day cameras.”

During the film, which will also screen in Dundee on March 28 and Inverness on April 4, one of the Usan team refers to the Pullars as “the most hated family in Scotland”. That’s the perspective of activists, David says, but the family do not regard themselves that way, and will not readily give up their way of life.

To that end, they are currently considering legal action over the Scottish Government ban, which was enacted in a bid to boost wild salmon stocks.

Although the species has been in existence for 60 million years, and farmed salmon is a major Scottish export, there are serious concerns about the future of the salmon in the wild and a range of monitoring and other measures are now in place in a bid to halt and reverse a significant decline.

Levels of Atlantic salmon have declined by 70% in the last 25 years, it is claimed. However, the Pullars claim scientific evidence proving their activity as a key driver is not there.

“We’re not the type of people that get intimidated,” he tells the Sunday National, adding, “This isn’t a job, it’s a way of life.

“I’ve never thought I should do anything else. If you’re out on a summer’s morning at 4 o’clock and you’re feeling the heat rising in the air, there’s nothing better.”