Connecting Coastal Communities

On the Gaelic speaking islands of Arranmore (Donegal, Ireland) and Barra (Outer Hebrides, Scotland) the fishermen believe that their livelihood and way of living is being threatened by powerful governmental forces who are not listening to them. In Barra, the dispute centres around two proposed marine Special Area of Conservation designations while in the islands off Donegal (including Arranmore) the dispute is around the Irish moratorium on drift-net fishing for salmon. There appear to be two different sources of authority in these disputes. One is external, legislatively based and has a clearly defined process and aim based on the need to conserve biodiversity. The other is internal, rooted in tradition and custom and comes from a way of knowing different to the prevalent system of ‘book’ learning and formal education processes. It is based on respect for, and ensuring the endurance of, an older and more particular way of knowing.

The Connecting Coastal Communities project engages with the island fishermen’s way of knowing the marine environment with the aim of reflecting this way of knowing in a way which would be visible to government agencies and other outsiders to the islands.

In light of the strong community support on both islands for this project and the innovative aspect of a research collaboration between two social scientists and a visual artist, we envisage that this project has the potential to create a model approach which could help other communities express and engage with their natural and cultural heritage in a way which is unique to each community.

The Connecting Coastal Communities project has led to the publication of a short book - Duthchas na Mara/Duchas na Mara/Belonging to the Sea - which was launched at the Clan MacNeil Gathering on Barra on 15 August 2012.


Project details

Duration:  Jan - May 2012

Funders: Colmcille (Value: £16,000)

Partners: Iain MacKinnon (Scottish Crofting Federation) and visual artist Stephen Hurrel