BANTRY is the venue this week as EU-supported Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAG) gather to promote ‘Smart Coastal Areas’ at a seminar from April 2nd to 4th in the Westlodge Hotel.
The organisers are The FARNET Support Unit at the initiative of the European Commission and with support from Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and FLAG South (Ireland), the latter chaired by Bantry man Finian O’Sullivan.
FLAG groups from across Europe will be meeting in Bantry to discuss ‘smart’ ways to tackle coastal challenge and take guidance on ‘smart’ development – including activities, development models and ways of working to boost the fisheries industry and coastal regions in an innovative way.
In 2017, the GDP of the Irish seafood sector was estimated at €1.15bn. More than 14,000 people are employed in Ireland’s seafood sector, many of whom work and live in rural coastal communities.
Fisheries and coastal areas are impacted by factors such as depopulation, ageing population, climate change and economic decline. The EU’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) was set up to support initiatives by local fisheries communities through Community-led Local Development (CLLD). FLAGs can use this money to implement projects that support sustainable small-scale fisheries and aquaculture production, and coastal communities.
However, funding is not the only answer – creativity and strategic action are also needed.
The primary venue is the Westlodge Hotel, but there will be a field visit to local fisheries-related businesses and to Whiddy Island to view the progress of a tourism-related project.