Empowering Communities

Good Relationships Empower Communities: Lessons Learned from Thorupstrand

Welcome to part two of Hannah’s blog series on her bursary-funded trip to Denmark. This week Hannah takes us to Thorupstrand and Lildstrand, two small Danish fishing communities, to learn about how good relationships, and working together, can help generate lasting change.

Hannah’s trip was funded by the Fisheries Innovation Scotland International Travel Bursary which is still open for applications. So head over to their website to learn more about how you can get your study trip funded.

By Hannah Fennell, Orkney Fisheries Association.

Fishing communities make up the backbone of the fishing industry, and too often bear the brunt of any negative impacts from changes to fisheries management. In Denmark the privatisation of quota as well as the introduction of a decommissioning scheme has had very different impacts on two very similar communities.

Historically the coast of northern Jutland, Denmark, has been the home to hundreds of small fishing communities. However, a changing political landscape coupled with the introduction of the quota system and decommissioning scheme contributed to the demise of many of these towns. Ninety miles west of the largest city in the region, Hirtshals, lies two small towns: Thorupstrand and Lildstrand. Both communities have a strong fishing history characterised by high levels of co-operation between individual fishermen, reflected in the number of shared resources used by the local industries. Like many fishing towns in northern Jutland, both Lildstrand and Thorupstrand lack harbours and instead winch their traditional clinker-craft boats onto the shore every evening. Both Lildstrand and Thorupstrand’s winches were owned and used collectively by the local fishermen, and both had stretches of land near their beaches which the fishermen would use to store their gear. The privatisation of quota and the European-wide decommissioning scheme tested these relationships and ultimately, the communities themselves.

In Lildstrand the decommissioning scheme resulted in many fishers decommissioning their boats and selling their quota outside the community. This impacted those who remained as they were placed under increased financial pressures to maintain the collectively-owned structures. The ramifications of the decision of the first fishers to leave the industry had a snowball effect, and ultimately the majority of skippers retired from fishing, almost destroying Lildstrand’s fishing industry.

The fate of Lildstrand stands in stark contrast to the town of Thorupstrand, a few miles along the coast.  Having seen what happened to their neighbours the Thorupstrand fishermen were determined not to suffer the same fate. They drew upon their experiences of working together and of running community-owned resources, to set up a common quota company through which they bought more quota to add  to a common pool – helping secure their own future as well as the future of the next generation. Unusually in schemes like this, all members of Thorupstrand’s fishing industry benefitted from the common pool as everyone in the industry could become a member and to have a say: boat owners, skippers, and crew.

The ability of the Thorupstrand fishermen to work together enhanced their sense of community and identity, which, combined with their traditional fishing methods, has captured the imagination of the public (culminating in the creation of a television series following the lives of some of the local fishermen). Additionally, the local industry was able to use its connection to the anthropologist Thomas Højrup to amplify their voice and enter national and international decision-making processes. 

Højrup is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen and, being from Thorupstrand, took a keen interest in how changes to fisheries management has impacted his community and others like it. He and his students began a series of projects with the town, culminating in the production of the report The Need for Common Goods for Coastal Communities (which can be viewed online). The report explores how the privatisation of fishing rights influenced the environmental, social, and economic health of fishing communities, and has garnered the attention of national and international decision makers, including members of the EU parliament who visited the town.

The contrasting fates between Lildstrand and Thorupstrand show the importance of strong relationships both within a community and across scales. By working together and harnessing their sense of identity, the fishermen of Thorupstrand were able to command nation-wide attention and become a representative for the struggles of small fishing communities throughout Europe.

Thumbnail image: Alex Berger

How to build good relationships in the fishing industry - A lesson from Denmark

Over the next month we will be sharing a series of short blogs from Hannah Fennell, a researcher at the Orkney Fisheries Association who won the International Study Bursary from Fisheries Innovation Scotland (FIS). Hannah will be sharing stories from her journey which took her around the coastline of Denmark exploring how the local fishing industry build and maintain good relationships.

Fisheries Innovation Scotland are, once again, offering anyone working in the Scottish commercial fishing industry (catching, processing, supply chain, NGO, academia and so on) the opportunity to apply for the bursary and get their own international trip funded. You can use the trip to help develop your career, learn something new and contribute to the sector, the opportunities are endless.

Read on to see where Hannah’s trip took her and click the link to find out how you can apply.


Fishing is hugely important industry for Scotland but it is facing several new challenges: Brexit, climate change, increased demand for marine space and changes in stock levels have thrown the industry into uncertainty. Good communication and good relationships within and between the industry and other maritime sectors is key to overcoming these challenges and finding new, better ways to manage fishing activity and make sure it can be both economically and environmentally sustainable. However, building these relationships can be difficult, especially when there are so many different voices, opinions, and attitudes within the fishing industry.


I visited Denmark with Fisheries Innovation Scotland’s 2017 International Study Bursary to explore how the Danish fishing industry has been able to overcome some of the barriers preventing different groups within its fishing industry from working together and to see what Scotland can learn from these experiences.

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During my journey across Denmark’s incredible coastline I spoke with fishermen, fisheries managers, scientists, buyers, and Producers Organisations and listened to their experiences of good and bad relationships in the industry, trying to find techniques we could use in Scotland. While interviewing them I kept in mind the concept of social capital- the relationships within and between communities that allow them to bond and work together.

There are three types:

1. Bonding social capital: the relationships within communities. These communities can be physical (such as a fishing town) or symbolic (such as the pelagic fishing fleet)

2. Bridging social capital: the relationships between communities

3. Linking social capital: the relationships across scales (e.g. the relationship between a fishing organisation and the government or a research institute)


We can think about social capital with that old analogy of a three-legged stool- each type of social capital is significant, and each is necessary for an overall healthy fishing industry. However, the real difficulty lies not in identifying social capital but in creating it.  This was the first in a series of questions I decided I needed to answer on my trip to Denmark. How are good relationships created? How can we maintain them? How does conflict arise, and how can it be solved? How and when do different groups collaborate? And finally, how is the fishing industry diversifying?

Stay tuned to find more….


If you have questions that you would like answered, and you have somewhere you would like to travel to, Fisheries Innovation Scotland’s International Study Bursary is open for applications now. Apply here: https://www.fiscot.org/projects/projects/fis019-fisheries-international-study-bursary-programme/

Bringing #FishComms to the Small Screen

Livestreaming: the chance to offer your online audience a glimpse into what’s going on within the confines of your event. Whether your conference is in Scotland, St Lucia (I wish!) or Timbuktu, you no longer have to worry that distance will put a dampener on your event -  all you need is a trusty internet connection, spot-on audio and a super camera to take your audience with you. And the best bit? Lots of the livestreaming platforms also include a live chat function which means your audience doesn’t have to sit in silence, they comment, interact and ask questions when they want to.  

Engaging your online audience may not be at the top of your event check-list (let’s face it, organising a conference is a mammoth task and you naturally focus on the physical venue and people in the room) but in the fisheries and environment world, perhaps it should be. For me, having a day out of the office to attend a conference is a treat, but fishermen don’t have the same luxury. If the weather is fine and there’s fish to catch, they’ll be out on the water in a flash. Conference cost takes on a new meaning when you’re not only paying a delegate fee, but missing out on the value of a day’s catch. 

This is why we – Team MWC – and our trusty friend Laurence Hartwell from Through the Gaps (thanks Larry), are asking organisations to think seriously about livestreaming their next event and reminding them that it doesn’t have to break the bank!  For us, good communication is all about participation and, luckily, these days, the internet allows people to roam further than the confines of their desk, so even if you’re out at sea, you can still stay connected. In fact, just last week MWC livestreamed the Bi-Annual Scottish Fishing Conference for Fisheries Innovation Scotland (FIS), and saw that 34% of our audience weren’t watching from a desktop, but from their phones or tablets.

When we livestream an event or conference, we like to make sure we provide social media support before, during and after it’s ended. This not only helps to drum up excitement for your online audience but also helps gets bums on seats on the actual day. As a rule, MWC will always create a social media hashtag and start sharing it at least a month before the conference. This helps people follow event updates and discussions during the day – creating what we think of as a crucial ‘channel’ of communication for those intrigued online.  

We did have high hopes that the conference hashtag for the Bi-Annual Scottish Fishing Conference (#BASFC18) might start trending worldwide (we’re an ambitious bunch), but then remembered that fisheries conferences are pretty niche and not everyone loves fish as much as we do! Although, nearly 200,000 twitter impressions, 40 contributors & 200 views on our livestream is still pretty impressive. Check out our infographic below.

So, if you have an event coming up and you want to make it more accessible to fishermen and other stakeholders, please get in touch. Or if you see us streaming online – drop us a comment and a question. We’d love to hear from you!


Spring cleaning season at #MWCHQ

Spring cleaning season at #MWCHQ

With the onset of the British Summer Time, the long-awaited departure of the Beasts from the East, and a healthy dose of sunshine finally breaking through the perpetually cloudy British skies, we have decided to call it springtime. That means breaking out our walking shoes for some beautiful country hikes, lunchtime coffees in the sun, and most importantly – time for a long-awaited spring cleaning here at #MWCHQ.

Digital nomads building virtual communities

Digital nomads building virtual communities

A sense of community can come in many different forms, but for me, it’s hard to think of a more faithful depiction of a community than amongst the fishing towns dotted across the coast of Cornwall.  From the large and bustling Newlyn to the tiny Mevagissey harbour, you’ll find the same thing at their core: fishermen and their families.