The Marine and Land National Park of the Atlantic Islands (PNMTIAG), the only national park in Galicia, is one of the main tourist attractions in the Pontevedra area and key to the local economy. Over time, several artisanal fisheries and shellfish gathering activities have been developed. While these fisheries are still viable, as environmental standards become more important diversification into other sectors is now a priority for maintaining the local economy. There is tremendous commitment to maintaining the area’s marine and fishing culture. Fishers and their families are often at the forefront of protecting the region’s environment, and are ambassadors for its natural, cultural, and gastronomic values.
To support these fishers in their efforts, three FLAGs in the area, led by the Pontevedra FLAG, came together to start the ‘Mar das Illas’ initiative. The project helps new start-up businesses that give fishers’ earnings a boost, while also ensuring the continuity of traditional fishing practices and diversification into pesca-tourism. Mar das Illas also tried to increase the visibility and local awareness of the natural environment and its conservation.
The FLAGs started Mar das Illas to promote entrepreneurial activities amongst local fishers, offering the fishers initial training on maritime-coastal heritage. Following the success of the project, the fisheries sector wanted to go further. To this end, two more initiatives were started to build on the fishers’ needs. These included new activities aimed at supporting entrepreneurship in pesca and marine tourism. Some of the activities were training programmes focused on sustainability, communication and raising awareness, a tutoring service for new businesses, and the development of series of good practices guides and protocols.
Diversification of fisheries in new sectors is at the centre of many Local Development Strategies across Europe. Marine and pesca tourism are profitable activities that can ensure the sustainable development of a coastal area. Moreover, such long-term cooperation between FLAGs is particularly useful and relatively simple between territories with many similarities (population, language, economic opportunities, common challenges). Once these “neighbouring groups” and common challenges have been identified, finding and implementing potential solutions is more efficient and becomes easier with the experience.
Lessons: The success of this project is fundamentally based on its dynamic and flexible nature, which has allowed it to be adapted to new needs identified throughout its implementation and new challenges (COVID-19). The involvement of the fishing sector was vital in making the project useful and having a lasting impact in the three FLAG areas involved. Starting from an initial smaller sized project, based on prior knowledge of the FLAGs, and gradually increasing its objectives with complementary initiatives, is what made Mar das Illas successful.
Cooperation is an efficient way of working that allows the FLAGs to develop actions foreseen in each of their Local Development Strategies, at a lower cost. This allows them to carry out activities that they could not cope with financially and administratively individually. In the case of Galicia, FLAGs receive good support from the regional authority which launched regular calls for FLAGs to cooperate.
Contribution to CLLD objective: (b) supporting diversification inside or outside commercial fisheries, lifelong learning and job creation in fisheries and aquaculture areas.