The webinar, chaired and facilitated by Richard Curtin of Bord Iascaigh Mhara, addressed cultural values and the role they play in small-scale fisheries management in Ireland. A written summary and video recording of the event can be found below. 

Introduction – Richard Curtin 

The meeting will seek to address the involvement of stakeholders in the management of small-scale fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic, as well as the significance of fisheries’ cultural value.

Do cultural values play a role in Small Scale Fisheries Management? – Norah Parke (Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation)

Cultural values are at the very heart of the small-scale fishing industry, with fleets often spanning two to three generations. This creates close connections throughout the industry and within local communities. Such values render fishing communities resilient, adaptive, and innovative, resulting in a fleet that can quickly and effectively adapt to changes in the industry.  Over time, the small scale industry has accumulated a wide set of informal tools which must now be officially recognised and consolidated.

Evaluating the cultural services of small-scale fisheries in the Atlantic Area – David Castilla (University of Huelva)

Natural and cultural heritage encompasses phenomena of scientific or conservation value; monuments and buildings; and abstract elements (e.g. skills and knowledge) which are recognised as important to a community’s heritage. CABFISHMAN is working to identify all elements of fisheries’ cultural and natural heritage across the Northeast Atlantic, creating a database of their total economic value as established by market and non-market based evaluation. This will form the basis of an interactive GeoTool for stakeholders, providing a holistic assessment of the true economic value of small-scale fisheries’.

Do small-scale fisheries need yet another research project? From output to outcome through stakeholder involvement – Marta Ballesteros (CETMAR Foundation)

Research design can increase the usability and applicability of project outputs for small-scale fisheries. CABFISHMAN uses small-scale fisheries’ data to inform the industry and allow stakeholders a comprehensive overview of the sector. Stakeholders, in particular those from the fishing industry, may contribute to this aspect of CABFISHMAN’s work by providing insights about their experiences, discussing the findings of the project’s analysis, and using the tools developed to test if their suitability.


The following questions were raised by attendees during the webinar discussion:

Do you have a definition of the cultural heritage groups 1-5?

David Castilla said that their research on items of cultural heritage did not initially clearly define groups, but results from additional observations should allow clear definitions in the future

Are all the variables used in the cultural heritage analysis binary? 

David Castilla explained that 15 binary variables were included to define cultural heritage. There were certain assumptions within the analysis but the method has been shown to be robust.

Despite the small-scale fisheries sector comprising over 80% of the EU fleet and providing over 50% of the direct employment in the catch sector, are they still under-represented at the national and European Union decision-making level due to lack of full-time paid representation and shortage of economic and fishing activity data to highlight their concerns?

Marta Ballesteros highlighted that the sector has in the past suffered from fragmentation, while the industrial sector has more organised representation. Also, small-scale fisheries or individual and smaller companies have trouble communicating compared to bigger organisations, but tools such as the LIFE platform are allowing these voices to be heard. She emphasised that small-scale fisheries should get in touch with Arantza Murillas of AZTI Foundation, and a CABFISHMAN project partner, to continue this communication. Norah Parke added that the regional inshore fisheries forums (RIFFs) are currently undergoing a renewal process which will help to find a solution to the point raised. They should be far more vibrant and active going forward and this will hopefully give them a far more relevant position in the Irish fishing scene. Marta Ballesteros said that the data issue is one of the gaps in the project that they are trying to resolve, and encouraged the input of ideas.

The EU talks about the preservation of small-scale fisheries in coastal areas, but in Ireland over the past 30 years many fishing communities have been wiped out. How can we redress this and bring back the knowledge that has been lost to future generations?

David Castilla said that the first step is to identify what we have now and what we had in the past, and then put it in value terms in the policy-making decision framework. This can help coastal communities use this knowledge for touristic uses or any other cultural services. In turn, this could help bring back what has been lost. Marta Ballesteros added that once the tangible and intangible cultural assets of Ireland have been recorded, the results can be fed into the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund’s specific action plan for small-scale fisheries. This can lead to specific actions in terms of cultural heritage based on the robust and scientific valuations carried out in this project. Resources will be available to recuperate values and knowledge in any particular community with the back-up of evidence-based knowledge.

Small-scale fishing vessels are defined as 12m or under, yet the majority of vessels exploiting crab in the northwest are now between 12 and 15 m in length. How can this be reconciled?

Norah Parke admitted that the EU definition of small-scale fisheries is somewhat out of kilter with the reality of Irish small-scale fisheries, and that it is difficult to compare a fishery off the northwest coast of Ireland with its equivalent in the Mediterranean due to differences in definitions and regulations. Definitions of small-scale fisheries have to be tailored more to the area in which they occur. Richard Curtin agreed, and mentioned that in this project they will include all vessels under 15m. He called attention to their planned creation of a publicly available online database on cultural heritage, to which anyone will be able to contribute. David Castilla added that this is the official definition of small-scale fisheries from the EU but it is a very simplistic definition. The topic is very complex and previous projects have found examples of sustainable small-scale fisheries that varied significantly.

Does CABFISHMAN see any divergence between “the preservation of small-scale fisheries” and the overarching EU preference of free market economics, where success is measured as greater profits?

David Castilla emphasised the need to highlight to the EU that they are not just concerned with the microeconomic value of small-scale fisheries, as it is very small compared with other activities, but rather draw attention to its high importance at the regional level. There are certain small towns and villages in Spain that have 70% dependency on fisheries, but overall fisheries are small in terms of the wider economy. Fishing is part of the way of life in these coastal areas and the fact that these communities cannot move back to cities represents a big problem at the EU level. Social and geographical elements need to be taken into account along with the economic ones.

There are various types of vessels included within small-scale fisheries. Is the project looking into that aspect too?

David Castilla confirmed that it is, citing an early task to define the vessels according to the main fishing gears in the EU. He highlighted that fishing gears are also an important determinant of cultural values; he mentioned analysing both tuna traps and the clay pot fishery on the coast of Cádiz. In many cases certain gear types are also more sustainable than other gears. The geotool that CABFISHMAN is developing can distinguish between the main fishing gears and the different values associated with them.

There is a need for representation for small-scale coastal fisheries at national and international level, as the future of the sector is dependent on this.

David Castilla said that small-scale fisheries have relatively little lobbying power in the EU, but the EU is aware of the importance of small-scale fisheries. It is necessary that they are represented more in the EU but this differs among countries. In Spain, where small-scale fisheries are more important than industrial fisheries, they are considered in the decision framework of the EU. There are structures in Spain of associations such as gillnets that are closely linked with the people representing Spain such as the IEO, AZTI and other regional governments, that are using information from small-scale fisheries and defending the interests of the sector. The relative influence depends on the country and the focus of different types of fisheries. More representation would be beneficial, particularly in certain countries. Norah Parke said that she didn’t think the small-scale fisheries sector makes enough use of possible input through the advisory councils. She said that in Ireland they could be well-represented if they joined forces, such as by getting more representation on the North-Western Waters Advisory Council.