Human Ecology

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 199–211 | Cite as

Operationalising Contemporary Rural Development: Socio-Cultural Determinants Arising from a Strong Local Fishing Culture



A transition to programmes adopting a governance-based approach in encouraging value-added and innovation in rural economies is often described as offering new opportunities for marginalised rural communities that have not benefited from top-down development policies. In practice, however, it is noted in Ireland and elsewhere in the EU that traditional fishers and farmers have been slow to engage in economic activities favoured by contemporary policies. I discuss how traditional small-scale fishing communities can be estranged from contemporary rural development policies that are focused primarily on providing high value-added service-oriented and processed goods. I approach the problem of poor integration of fishing communities by focusing on how contemporary rural development programmes - though shrouded in language of local participation, governance, and indigenisation - can fail to actively engage with indigenous socio-cultural identity and resources. Exploring how intricate human ecological relationships involving custom and local knowledge of physical resources are not readily commoditised, I raise questions in relation to some of the central claims of the governance and rural development model, such as that it has the capacity to empower and generate confidence through locally appropriate economic activity.


Small-scale fishing Socio-cultural identity Governance Rural development Culture economy 



Thanks to the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. This work was funded through the Beaufort Marine Research Award, which is carried out under the Sea Change Strategy and the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation (2006–2013), with the support of the Marine Institute, funded under the Marine Research Sub-Programme of Ireland’s National Development Plan 2007–2013.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rural Economy and Development Programme (REDP), Teagasc,Co. GalwayIreland

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