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Braving Troubled Waters

Braving Troubled Waters: Sea Change in a Dutch Fishing Community

Rob van Ginkel
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Braving Troubled Waters
    Book Description:

    Dwindling fish stocks, changing markets and often ill-advised government intervention have affected the lives of Dutch fishermen for decades. The author of this study has spent years among the fishermen of the Dutch island of Texel, and this book records the changes in their working lives, tracking the influence of national and international factors on the social and cultural structures of the community. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0813-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 7-10)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 11-34)

    From the late 18th century until fairly recently, Dutch fisherfolk were culture heroes in the national self-image. Braving treacherous seas with frail boats to eke out a frugal living for themselves and their families, fishermen were romantically portrayed in the visual arts and in works of literature and scholarship as embodying ‘inner civilization’ and national virtues.¹ They were believed to be the epitome of authenticity, uncorrupted by modernity, living austere and pious lives in close-knit communities, preserving in customs and costumes what had disappeared elsewhere in the Netherlands, and maintaining norms and values that simultaneously mirrored and provided a model...

  5. Chapter 1 The Golden Knoll: People, Place and History
    (pp. 35-54)

    The Dutch island of Texel is the southern- and westernmost of the Wadden Islands, an archipelago extending along the northern coasts of the Netherlands and Germany and the Danish west coast. It is approximately twenty-five kilometres long and on average eight kilometres wide. The Marsdiep Strait separates it from the mainland of the Dutch province of North Holland. Two ferries maintain an hourly connection with the naval port of Den Helder, with a half-hourly schedule during the holiday season. Due to its moderate climate, Texel is a lush, green oval of land with rich and varied vegetation, interspersed with slightly...

  6. Chapter 2 Trimming the Sails to the Wind
    (pp. 55-104)

    Under conditions of common pool resource use, fishermen rarely exploit one single species or a single ecological niche. It is precisely this aspect of the utilization of commons that is often neglected by theorists who regard enforcement of rules by external agencies or privatization as solutions to tragedies of the commons. If not tied to a single resource – for example when one ‘owns’ this resource as a tenant or as a person with specific entitlements – fishermen tend to take optimal advantage of the variety of marine ecosystems, choosing to use specific niches as they deem fit. Switching and...

  7. Chapter 3 Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
    (pp. 105-146)

    As we have seen in the previous chapter, Texel fishermen diversified their operations such that a complex annual round of fisheries came about. Some opted for specialization or intensified exploitation, while others withdrew from fishing temporarily or seasonally alternated onshore jobs and fishing pursuits. Exploiting various niches in the marine ecosystem, the fishermen adapted to the erratic forces of nature, the market and state intervention. They proved to be genuine opportunists, who were ambivalent concerning self-imposed or external restrictions and cooperation among themselves and with other parties in the fishing industry. Depending on such factors as, inter alia, resource availability...

  8. Chapter 4 Booming Business: The Rise of Beam Trawling
    (pp. 147-186)

    The offshore fleet’s gradual growth and the inshore segment’s rather rapid decline characterized post-war developments in the Texel fishing industry. It was evident that owner-operators needed to modernize to stay in business. Those who were unable do so began to lag behind and in most cases were ousted from the fishing industry or had to muddle through and accept substandard incomes. In hindsight, modernization in the offshore cutter sector was rather modest. In many respects, the 1960 boats resembled the ones that dated from the 1930s. Generally, engine power had only slightly increased, while several skipper-owners continued to operate pre-war...

  9. Chapter 5 Catch Kings and Quota Busters
    (pp. 187-240)

    In the mid-1970s, several international events affected the fishing industries of Western European countries in major ways. Negotiations on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea regarding the establishment of 200 nm (nautical miles) Exclusive Economic Zones were underway. It would be the largest sea-based ‘enclosure’ operation. The lengthy talks were expedited when the second British-Icelandic Cod War (1972-1973) reached a zenith. With the Law of the Sea agreement emerging but not yet in place, Iceland nonetheless decided to unilaterally extend and enforce its exclusive fishing zone from 50 to 200 nm, giving rise to the third...

  10. Chapter 6 Commissioned Cooperation: Plentiful and Lean Years
    (pp. 241-290)

    The previous chapter showed how the fishermen’s discontents and their contraventions of the rules and regulations combined into a tense situation that politicians and bureaucrats found difficult to handle. Fishermen tended to ignore and flout the rules, prompting a response from state institutions to force them to comply. This state coercion was unsuccessful. Despite huge monitoring and policing efforts and expenditure, compliance problems continued to exist. At face value, it was a typical integration conflict in which the fishermen attempted to hold on to their perceived autonomy, which was being sapped because they became increasingly entangled in burgeoning regulatory regimes....

  11. Conclusions: Seas of Trouble
    (pp. 291-306)

    I ended the previous chapter on a rather pessimistic note. Currently, the local fishing industry is in jeopardy, the owner-operators are exasperated; the deckhands have their own particular causes of disagreement, the fishing communities are in decline and more generally, the meaning of what it is to be a fisherman has changed profoundly. Just days after I wrote the chapter’s concluding remarks, the Fishery Cooperative celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary – a remarkable age for a voluntary association in an occupational world in which independence and individualism are important self-referents and factionalism and schisms are rife. Given the bad economic situation,...

  12. Appendices
    (pp. 307-310)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 311-316)
  14. References
    (pp. 317-332)
  15. Index
    (pp. 333-338)