In mid-January, a group of 27 stakeholders gathered in the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen to discuss key questions as part of the Deep Maps: West Cork Coastal Cultures project. The workshop follows on from two questionnaires which were conducted in the study area about marine environmental issues and policy.
The stakeholders represented different sectors including: tourism, government, general public, community groups, commercial, and the fishing industry. Attendees were divided into groups to discuss the questions outlined
Both benefits of and concerns for the marine environment were discussed. The groups determined that the benefits include economic, scenery, recreation, and natural capital. The stakeholders were concerned about pollution, over fishing, climate change, and weak governance of the coast.
Deep Maps asked the stakeholders about the appropriateness of marine conservation efforts and how marine environmental issues and policies might be communicated more effectively?
The general consensus amongst the groups was that there is a disconnect between governance and what is happening on the ground. The people who are expected to implement policies have little or no say in how policies are made.
The stakeholders felt that there is often an inconsistent approach to marine conservation with lack of cohesion and fragmentation between governmental departments. Global marine policies also have an effect at a local level and this should be taken into account when deciding policies.
What can be done so that there is a greater understanding of marine environmental issues and policies at a local level?
Public consultation was deemed necessary in order to affect real change as to how marine issues and policies are understood. Stakeholders felt that the key to dissemination is appropriate communication techniques that target all audiences in order to ensure full participation.
Internet, word of mouth, and first-hand experience were identified by the stakeholders as ways that they access information about the marine environment. However, there is a gap with regard to schools and it was felt that more could be done in order to engage students in conservation and the natural world.
Finally, the workshop also examined the role of culture and heritage with regard to the marine environment and changes in the coastal area were explored. Issues such as coastal erosion, decrease in biodiversity, and adverse weather such as storms due to climate change were noted.
Decrease in population of rural maritime areas and the loss of fishing traditions is cause for concern according to the stakeholders, who also wondered whether a deeper knowledge of the history and traditions of coastal locations might help us to appreciate the ‘magic’ of special coastal places.