Thursday 18. May 2017

Survey on Sea Culture and Sense of Place

How do we talk about the sea? How do we look at the sea in times of increased tourism and aquaculture? Is the ocean included in school curricula? Are the answers to these questions different in different countries, or is there a similar trend found around the world?

These questions are the subject of a research project being conducted by an international team of researchers from the University of West Brittany in France, the University Centre of the Westfjords in Iceland, the University of Turku in Findland, and James Cook University in Australia. The name of the project is “The Sea in a Global World: Discourses and Practices”.

A questionnaire being diffused in these countries may shed some light on these questions. The survey is the same in all countries, and the efforts taken to create identical translations have revealed significant differences in attitudes towards the sea between countries and cultures. This should be evident to the Icelanders who participate in the survey, which should not take more than ten to fifteen minutes to answer.

Icelandic version of the survey, hosted at the University of Brest.

Last year, a conference was convened at the University of West Brittany in Brest, France, with Jennifer Smith participating on behalf of the University Centre of the Westfjords. In November 2017, a second conference will be held in Brest, focusing on changing attitudes towards the sea. Such changes may be found in Iceland in a broader context, even though they might be on a different level from those taking place, for example, on France’s Breton peninsula, where tourism has assumed greater importance than the fishing industry.

Yet the sense of connection to the sea seems to be changing in Iceland as it is elsewhere. There is talk about renewing fishing culture through coastal fisheries, and talk about the need to publish cookbooks with fish recipes, as young people today are not necessarily used to cooking fish. The days of talking about the sea as the fisherman’s graveyard are hopefully over, but with recent developments with tourist safety at Reynisfjara beach, we seem to be entering into a very different discourse. The debate has long been about fish and quotas, but it can shift to pollution, fish farms, and seascape views.

This research project seeks to address these themes, and the survey provided here is one of the first attempts to do so.

Photo from Drangsnes on the Westfjords peninsula. Photo: Ágúst Atlason.
Photo from Drangsnes on the Westfjords peninsula. Photo: Ágúst Atlason.