Capturing the Importance of the Ocean for Irish and Welsh Coastal Communities through art
A series of watercolour illustrations and interviews have captured the importance of the ocean to coastal communities in Ireland and Wales as part of BlueFish, an EU-funded project. Through engagement with coastal communities and art BlueFish develops knowledge and understanding of the marine resources and the potential impacts of climate change on the Irish and Celtic Sea ecosystem
The marine science research project BlueFish is a partnership between six organisations in Ireland and Wales including the Marine Institute, University College Cork, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Bangor University, Aberystwyth University and Swansea University.
Sharon Sugrue, Scientific and Technical Officer, Marine Institute and Galway's urban sketcher Róisín Curé visited coastal communities in Ireland and Wales that border the Irish and Celtic Sea. They met with people from a broad spectrum of marine activities including fishing, aquaculture, leisure, transport, tourism, marine renewable energy.
"A key aspect of the project was speaking with people living and working in coastal communities, and gathering their opinions about climate change and learning about how it might affect their livelihoods. Along with interviewing people and documenting their daily interactions with the sea, the medium of art was also used to record their activities. This was a unique opportunity to talk directly to coastal communities and capture their perspectives through art," Ms Sugrue said.
Róisin Curé produced a series of watercolour illustrations that captured snapshots of these coastal communities and people's daily lives. The results of the interviews and art through watercolour illustrations created an accessible way for the public to understand the importance the ocean has on livelihoods in coastal communities.
By engaging with people and industries dependant on the sea, the information gathered highlighted how they benefit from the ocean, their thoughts on climate change, and particularly how it was going to affect their lives and businesses. Comments made by fishermen stated that 'without the ocean, we wouldn't have a living: it's our only source of income in this rural part of Ireland.'
"Many of the stories reaffirmed the importance of the age-old relationship between people and the sea, noting that the sea is the life-blood which sustains these communities. The general consensus in both Ireland and Wales coastal communities was that climate change is happening. There was an acknowledgment and a realisation amongst the people interviewed that there was a real looming threat to their livelihoods," Ms Sugrue said.
Many people commented on how they were seeing changes to their climate in their local communications. A local businessman from the Isle of Anglesey commented, 'in the 38 years I've been working here, the road would have flooded twice a year. Now it floods much more often.'
Ms Róisín Curé said, "I felt privileged to sketch, at close quarters, people whose ingenuity has turned a potentially hostile ocean into a source of income. I hope that the same ingenuity will provide the answers to the challenges we're facing with the effects of climate change."
In August 2018, the ports of Dingle in County Kerry, Baltimore in County Cork, Kilmore Quay County Wexford and Howth in County Dublin were visited and fishermen, restaurateurs, shellfish producers, operators in the tourism sector and seafarers were interviewed. The Welsh coastal communities were visited in October and included Isle of Anglesey, Bangor, Pwllheli, New Quay, Milford Haven and Pembrokeshire.
"This project has given me the opportunity to engage with those living and working in coastal communities in a personal and hands on way. Growing up by the sea and being part of a family business in aquaculture, I felt an affinity with the people interviewed. It also brought home to me the effect that climate change could have in a 'real sense' showing how these effects could ripple through these communities," Ms Sugrue said.
Linking science and art as a mechanism to convey the importance of the ocean to coastal communities and the potential impacts of climate change on these communities will continue throughout 2019, where the project will feature at maritime festivals in Ireland and Wales. This will enable us to continue the dialogue with these coastal communities and what the future holds.
The BlueFish project is funded by The Ireland Wales 2014-2020 European Territorial Co- operation (ETC) Programme. The purpose of this maritime programme is to connect organisations, businesses and communities on the West coast of Wales with the South- East coast of Ireland.
To find out more about the Bluefish project please visit: http://www.bluefishproject.com/
Captions for Photos:
Image 1: "Without the ocean, we wouldn't have a living: it's our only source of income in this rural part of Ireland.Climate change is definitely happening: growth periods are longer than they ever were. But higher water temperatures and higher rainfall could be catastrophic for our business." Oyster and mussel fishermen, Cromane, Co. Kerry. By Róisín Curé
Image 2: "The change in weather has been affecting the seed – we have had very little this year." Mussel fisherman, Bangor, Wales. By Róisín Curé