Fishing For Survival in the ‘Blue Economy’

Found Poems From The Irish Islands



Small-scale fisheries, environmental governance, islands, political ecology, found poems, ecopoetry


Almost three thousand islanders live on eighteen islands off the west coast of Ireland. While many of these islands are dependent on a small-scale fishing industry for survival, their fishing communities face challenges in navigating complex fisheries governance systems at local, regional, national and EU scales. Between 2018 and 2020, I engaged with Irish island fishing communities, the fishing industry and the policy environment in interrogating the political and institutional challenges faced by island fishing communities and their initiatives to manage island fisheries on a collective, seasonal basis. This collection of found poems emerged accidentally while I was analysing and writing up the research. As such, they are an unintended contribution to experimental geographies and join the recent resurgence in creative and arts-based work by geographers and social scientists. Created from the interview transcripts of research participants, the poems provide a snapshot of the complexity of the issues at play during the research period. They highlight the multiple storylines that jostle for space and visibility in the fisheries governance context. The mosaic of voices demonstrate that contestation and contradictions exist and play out not just between islanders and non-islanders, but between islanders themselves, often with no resolution. By allowing for a multiplicity of meanings to co-exist, my hope is that this collection of found poems will disturb the fixed narratives amongst those who are engaged in Irish fisheries, challenge the boundaries within which scholarly research is traditionally presented, and render the research accessible to a wide range of audiences.

Author Biography

Ruth Brennan, Trinity College Dublin

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellow (2018-2020), PhD (Marine Social Science, University of Aberdeen 2015), MSc (Coastal and Ocean Policy, University of Plymouth 2007), Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales (The Law Society, 2000), Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice (The College of Law of England and Wales, London, 1998), LL.B (Hons.) (Law, Trinity College Dublin, 1997), Trinity College Dublin Scholar (1995).

Research Interests: Social, historical, political and cultural influences shaping environment-society relationships; environmental governance, marine policy and social justice; ecosystem approach to management of socio-ecological systems; art-science collaborations. Positioned at the interface of science, policy and the arts, my work as a marine social scientist is highly interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary. I use innovative visual and participatory and qualitative methodologies to explore how the articulation of culturally-embedded relationships between people and place can facilitate engagement with the related policy environment. My research offers insights into different ways in which marine spaces are conceptualised by users, managers and human-environment interactions, how this relates to marine resource governance and, in particular, what it means for community engagement. I am an experienced facilitator and communicator both through my research and my former career as a solicitor with a leading international law firm in London and Paris. I collaborated for more than four years with Glasgow-based visual artist Stephen Hurrel and our art-science work has been widely exhibited in Scotland (including at GoMA, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow).


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How to Cite

Brennan, R. (2021). Fishing For Survival in the ‘Blue Economy’: Found Poems From The Irish Islands. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 21(1), 81–105. Retrieved from