Dutch industry magazine features Marloes Kraan: Appreciating the social-cultural value of Dutch fisheries

June 15, 2020

In the latest edition of the Dutch industry magazine Visculinair, Marloes Kraan sets out her vision for integrating the social cultural values into fisheries management.

We measure a lot of different things in Dutch fisheries, Kraan outlines, but not the social and cultural values of fishing before policy decisions are made. Furthermore, she argues, social cultural values matter and not just historically. They are contemporary and directly related to food security, employment and social cohesion in coastal regions.

The following text (below) is the English translation of the original column from the magazine. For the original column (in Dutch) click the link here.


Column Marloes Kraan

Marloes Kraan is a marine anthropologist and works at Wageningen Marine Research and at the Environmental Policy Group of Wageningen University. She is committed to paying more attention to the behaviour of people (such as commercial fishermen) in ocean and fisheries research.

Appreciating the socio-cultural value of fisheries

In the commercial fisheries, almost everything is measured. My colleagues have kept track of how much fishing is done by how many ships, how often, where, for how long, what is caught and how much the catch is worth. We really know an incredible amount about the fisheries in the Netherlands. And that is important; it enables us to make accurate predictions, give advice on how much fish can be caught and monitor how the sector is doing.

But one aspect that we do not measure very systematically is the socio-cultural value of fisheries. And that is a pity, because what you do not understand can be unintentionally lost. Fisheries in the Netherlands are on the verge of change. Due to Brexit, the construction of marine wind farms and the creation of marine nature reserves, fisheries will have less space for fishing and will have to adapt. The prohibition of electric pulse fishing also requires new ideas for the sector. When looking for solutions, we must not only look at technical innovations and credible revenue models, but we must also appreciate the socio-cultural value of fisheries.

For example, the Dutch herring fleet is legendary and was crucial to the economy of the Dutch Golden Age. The various fishing -, open air - and maritime museums in the Netherlands testify to the importance of fishing for the Dutch identity. Herring has therefore become one of our national symbols, in addition to tulips, wooden clogs and cheese. But this socio-cultural value is not only part of history, it is also contemporary and contributes to the resilience of the sector. Because commercial fishing has a traditional place in various coastal towns, the cultural heritage is kept alive. But it is also about contributing to food security, providing employment in regions that are losing population and ensuring social cohesion in fishing communities. Because many fishing businesses are family-owned, they can tighten their belts in times of economic hardship.

This socio-cultural value of fisheries should be studied more effectively so that it can be preserved and put to good use.