Maiken Bjorkan’s blog: Girona, Palamós and Big Chief Petter

From November 2013 until March 2014, Maiken, a social anthropologist based in Norway, will be living and working in Spain. Working with fishermen and scientists involved in the Red Shrimp case study, Maiken will be studying how management plans are implemented from a “people perspective”. You can read all her blog posts here.

Last week, Petter Holm – head of Work Package 4 for GAP2 and my old PhD supervisor – came all the way from Norway to Spain to visit the GAP2 Red Shrimp case study. In order to spend our time as effectively and usefully as possible, I booked in appointments with several of the stakeholders involved in the case study. In addition to the work-related tasks, we made the most of the Catalan atmosphere, glimpses of spring and excellent food!

Barcelona: CSIC-ICM

We were really pleased that the GAP2 team located in Barcelona took the time to meet us. As mentioned in an earlier post, the location of the institute is impressive, right on the beach promenade. We had lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area, discussing the case study.

Girona and Alegret

Since we wanted to go to both Palamos and Girona, we rented a car. Anybody who has driven in a large city like Barcelona knows that it can be quite challenging, even with a GPS lady who gives you orders relentlessly. While she (the GPS lady) appeared to be drunk at times and sent us off into the middle of nowhere, we arrived in Girona more or less elegantly and just in time for the interview with Joan Luis Alegret. Alegret is a social anthropologist who has been working with the Palamos fishers for more than 20 years, and all the fishers have mentioned him as important for the LTMP process even if he is not a formal stakeholder in GAP2. He has also been key in the establishment of the Museum of Fisheries in Palamos.

As a social scientist, Alegret was a very instructive interviewee, as he is aware of what type information I am interested in. Often, even if an interviewee is very knowledgeable and willing to share, he/she can take things for granted and it is difficult to get a sufficiently detailed explanation. An example of this is how Alegret described the formal institutional system in the Spanish fisheries management system. He also gave us insight into the numerous projects that the Palamos ‘cofradia’ is undertaking in addition to GAP2, such as a marketing project, guaranteeing the quality of the shrimp.

By the way, Girona is a beautiful city and the University of Girona used to be a convent – really worth a visit!

Palamos, Conrad and the Museum of Fisheries

Palamos is around an hour from Girona, and the GPS lady took us there without any problems. The last time I was here, the harbor was very busy and the fishers were running back and forth in order to prepare the vessel for the closed season. This time, the atmosphere was quite different. All the vessels were resting in the harbor, looking clean and ready for adventure. Some fishers were painting details here and there and fixing small things. The closed season for the Red Shrimp will be in place until the 17th of February.

Conrad met us twice during our stay. First, we had an informal and very nice dinner (with fresh seafood from the local fishers: flatfish, frogfish and baby squids).  Second, he took Petter and me for a guided trip to his vessel (which he designed and built himself!), the cofradia and finally the Museum (mentioned above). The Museum tour is very nice and instructive with a film, pictures, actual fishing gear and other artifacts related to fishing. It gives an insight to the regions’ fisheries from a variety of perspectives; its history and culture; the species and the development of gear, the role of women and so on (Note: The role of women in fisheries is often overlooked in fisheries in general, even if they often have played vital roles in the processing and marketing of fish).

Interviews vs Participatory Observation

While formal interviews are a great way to get information in a short period of time, just hanging out together – or to use a more formal term: doing participatory observation – is another way of gaining insights. Often, sharing experiences brings up issues and questions that are impossible to plan for. The time we spent with Conrad in Palamos was definitely a reminder of the importance of going “beyond” the interview situation.

Now all of us in the Spanish Red Shrimp case study are waiting eagerly to receive GAP2 Communications Officer, Katrina, and a film crew. Then, Giulia will do her last survey of the Red Shrimp for GAP2, and we will all be able to participate as Conrad goes bottom trawling.


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