Kari Stange, a PhD student at Wageningen University, will be based in Aberdeen, Scotland during April 2013. Spending time with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), Kari wants to better understand how fishing industry stakeholder views and messages are generated and communicated between different actors at local, national, and international levels and how this can help the GAP2 project. You can see all her blog posts here.
Getting out & about
As my exchange visit in Scotland is coming towards an end I realize I have spent most of my days in meeting rooms and offices. That is the reality for many fisheries stakeholder representatives as well; that’s where they need to be to communicate their messages to a variety of audiences. But how about the salty, real-life dimension of coastal communities and their fisheries? I put on my fleece and raingear and head out to see what I can find.
First stop Peterhead, an hour bus ride north of Aberdeen at the easternmost point on the Scottish mainland. Peterhead, known locally as “The Blue Toon”, has a long and strong tradition as a fishing community. It is home port to a large part of the Scottish North Sea fishing fleet and several of the Scottish fisheries stakeholder organizations have their offices here. Today the harbor is quiet with only one or two vessels unloading their catch. A few people are busy around their boats, mending nets or welding gear. Many of the workers are of Asian descent. Crew on Scottish fishing vessels are increasingly from elsewhere and legal issues that skippers need to be aware of for have come up in the meetings I have attended duing my visit here. I have a fish cake lunch among the locals at the Dolphin Café between the Fisherman’s Mission and the Fish Market before continuing up the coast to Fraserburgh.
Fraserburgh, or “The Broch”, is a big fishing port and base for yet more fisheries stakeholder organizations. Several of the pelagic trawlers that fish for mackerel and herring in the North Sea lie tied up next to each other in the harbour. I knew they were big, but they are huge! By now the wind and rain is picking up and I seek refuge in the Lighthouse Museum. As their only visitor this blistery afternoon I get a special guided tour through Scottish lighthouse history – a fascinating account of past glory, filled with stories of innovations and survival skills in a harsh environment. Today new navigational techniques have taken over and the few lighthouses that are still in operation are all automated.
In a way both Peterhead and Fraserburgh give a similar “past glory” feeling. Decommissioning schemes have reduced the size of the fishing fleet to a fraction of what it was back in their heydays. North Sea oil and gas are landed at big industrial sites nearby. The offshore industry gives job opportunities, mostly based in Aberdeen, with conditions that are often favorable compared to fishing. Fisheries-related businesses in Peterhead and Fraserburgh close down and buildings around the harbors are boarded up, some with for sale or for rent signs.
Next and final stop: Shetland, and more meetings. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Scottish waters are currently on the government’s agenda. The SFF and its constituencies with interests in each specific area that might be designated as MPAs are now being consulted as stakeholders. I will join them in Lerwick as an observer in a Monday evening meeting organized by Marine Scotland. Lerwick! Travelling by boat seems appropriate for such a destination. I decide to go early so I can see a bit of Shetland and catch an overnight ferry on Friday night. Serendipity and luck strikes again! I run into a friendly local on the ferry and end up spending Saturday with her family, sea kayaking among waves, seals, cliffs and black guillemots. And I get to see some puffins to. Shetland is an amazing place.
By now I’m having (and enjoying) haggis. For breakfast! Going native? Time to go home.
Coming here was a good idea. I wanted to gain an understanding of what “fisheries stakeholders” might be; who they are and how they operate. This exchange opportunity allowed me to gain experiences on site, right in the middle of the action. I leave for home with a bag full of impressions and new questions – now there is a lot of processing to do. I look forward to discussing and sharing my experiences with my GAP2 colleagues and the rest of you who have an interest in stakeholder involvement in EU fisheries management!