Collaborative Sustainable Innovation

co-designing small-scale fisheries governance approaches


CO-SUSTAIN is an interdisciplinary research project hosted by the Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities and led by Dr Ruth Brennan under the sponsorship of Prof. Poul Holm. From October 2018 to October 2020, Dr Brennan will work closely with the Irish Islands Marine Resources Organisation (IIMRO) to co-design and test innovative governance approaches that promote good governance, foster marine stewardship and contribute to sustainability goals while meeting the need of fisheries-dependent coastal communities to flourish. This interdisciplinary research will be focused on the four island groups of Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Cork on the Irish west coast. It will draw together marine science (natural and social), political ecology, law, environmental governance, environmental history and gender studies to:

    • Assess the cultural basis and social importance of the contemporary islands’ small-scale fishing industry on Ireland’s Atlantic coast by contextualising the industry with reference to the region and industry’s environmental history and heritage of marine resource use;
    • Identify the most effective governance approaches for small-scale fishing communities for each of 4 island groups by critically assessing the values, norms, worldviews and power relations within different stakeholder groups (in the relevant communities and in the policy environment), and by scoping out legislative, regulatory and institutional barriers;
    • Carry out a gender analysis of the different roles of men and women in fisheries governance in Irish island small-scale fisheries in order to understand what they do, what resources they have, and what their needs and priorities are.

The findings will provide governance actors (in coastal communities and in the policy environment) and academics with a better understanding of:

  • the kinds of approaches that meet the needs of fishing communities and policy-makers;
  • the narratives being developed by island fishing communities to design their own futures and how these are (re)shaping fishing identities.

The findings will also contribute to the implementation of:

  • Sustainable Development Goal 14 on conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources;
  • The FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries and Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy by producing policy guidance for context-sensitive local governance structures.

The planned research outputs include four journal articles, a policy report, presenting the research at international conferences, and international seminars and webinars. A tailored dissemination and communication plan will increase awareness of the research aims and findings.

Numerous outreach activities, including the use of social media, will allow the transfer of knowledge in academy and companies, and also to the general public.

CO-SUSTAIN Project Overview

CO-SUSTAIN Stakeholder list

Images credit: Seamus Bonner