BY BRIAN MOORE
OVER 160 delegates from small fishing communities across 20 nations, including Chile and Iceland, gathered in Bantry last week for the FARNET Smart Coastal Areas seminar.
Organised by the European Commission, with support from Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and FLAG South (Ireland), this is the first time that an event such as this has been hosted in Ireland.
‘We are delighted that the organisers picked Bantry as a location,’ FLAG South chair and Bantry Bay mussel farmer Finian O’Sullivan told The Southern Star.
The FLAG South, or Fisheries Local Action Group, is an initiative by the EU to enhance and support local fishing communities by focusing on fishing and aquaculture skills, adding value to the local industry and providing support for marine tourism and development.
‘The theme of the conference is Smart Coastal Areas and delegates were discussing topics ranging from partnerships between different interest groups, resource use by optimising local resources and production systems and financing by reaching small-scale beneficiaries or micro-credit and accessing vital services,’ Finian said.
‘We will also be showcasing the ongoing research work at BIM’s lab here in Bantry Bay, as well as the marine tourism developments with the kayak blueway and the hostel on Whiddy Island.’
The seminar also saw presentations on FLAG projects in EU countries that demonstrate smart approaches to rural sustainability and development, while local examples from the Cork’s coastal area included Courtmacsherry Community Shop and the Schull Bait Bins, both of which are supported by Ireland’s FLAG South.
‘This year FLAG South has seen an increase in funding to €1.98 million funds which will be used on projects from Youghal in the east to Dursey Island,’ Finian said.
‘The conversations and ideas generated here this week will, I hope, go on to ensure that there is a future for rural coastal communities across Ireland and Europe.’