It’s hard to believe my last blog post was published close to the start of this year and now the year is already drawing to a close. Such a lot has happened, that it has taken me some time to gather all the threads together and distill them into coherent blog posts. Since my last post about the Donegal islands, I have visited many of the islands in the Galway, Mayo and Cork island groups, as you’ll have seen if you’ve been following @belongingtosea on Twitter. I wrote a little about the qualitative, participatory research process in one of my previous posts. I didn’t mention how overwhelming it can be when I spend almost a month doing fieldwork, as I did in April. It was an incredibly rich month, travelling from island to island (mostly via the mainland as I found out there’s virtually no interisland transport unless you’re a tourist visiting the Galway islands in the summer – or unless you manage to hitch a lift on a fishing boat with a football team (thank you Clare Island football team)). It was also exhausting, in a good way. I met and listened to so many people on the islands, a mark of how generous people are at giving me their time and providing me with hospitality.
The month of April was followed by academic conference season with three conferences over the space of two months: the EUGEO Congress on the Geographies of Europe in NUI Galway, Art in the Anthropocene in Trinity College Dublin and MARE People and the Sea conference in the University of Amsterdam. Then came a Feminist Political Ecology PhD summer school in July that I assisted at in the University of Oslo and this was followed by the public consultation on the Marine Planning Policy Statement (my response to the consultation is here).
The PECH (Fisheries) Committee kicked off again in Brussels from July, and I’m delighted to be back working on fisheries and other marine issues with MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s team. I’m also delighted to be working with MEP Grace O’Sullivan who is a Coordinator of the PECH Committee, and has already spoken out strongly in support of our small-scale fishing communities, environmental protection, socially just environmental management and the importance of drawing on qualitative social science to inform marine environmental governance with deeper understandings of the political and socio-cultural complexities of human-environment relations. I am grateful that MEP Flanagan and MEP O’Sullivan will be jointly funding a representative of Irish women in small-scale fisheries to visit the European Parliament next January, to attend an event on European women in fisheries organised by the LIFE network (Low Impact Fishers Europe). The aim of the meeting is to breathe new life into AKTEA, “a network of women in fisheries who work collectively for the formal recognition of women’s role in the sector and to ensure access for women of fishing communities to decision-making at European and national level” and to inspire the creation of national networks for women in small-scale fisheries.
Keeping this broader policy context live in my mind, I’ve been looking back at the conversations I had with our island communities earlier this year, the interviews I carried out, the focus groups I ran, the people I met, and, over the next few weeks I’ll be publishing a series of blog posts here about those research visits. I’d have preferred more evenly spaced out timing for the posts, that was the intention, but I should know by now that qualitative research doesn’t work according to rigid timetables. I needed time to digest, to filter, to breathe. If you’ve been wondering about the silence, thank you for your patience. More soon.