Fishing communities in County Down have been given a major boost through a Maritime Heritage Tourism initiative, launched recently in Ardglass.
Heritage guide training, signage, seating, information panels, free Wi-Fi and media Apps, are among the benefits to fishing communities at Ardglass, Portavogie and Kilkeel, through the collaborative project led by the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership (SLLP), working with Ards and North Down Borough Council , Newry Mourne and Down District Council, and the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority (NIFHA).
Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Councillor Naomi Bailie, said; “Through working collaboratively I am delighted that this initiative has been so fruitful for the three fishing ports of Ardglass, Kilkeel and Portavogie. The aim of this project is to attract and retain visitors who will bring revenue into the three ports and their wider communities.
“Newry Mourne and Down District Council were very pleased to work in particular with the fishing dependant communities on the erection of information panels and the production of heritage apps for all three fishing ports. I am also very excited by the opportunities that the seafood report offers to the wider area, particularly given the focus on 2016 as the year of food.”
Speaking at the launch, Mayor of Ards and North Down, Alderman Alan Graham, also said: “An investment of £80,000 has enabled public realm improvements to be carried out in Portavogie. New seating, signage and information panels have been installed as part of the project, improving the viewing of the harbour and fishing fleet and giving the village a new look and feel.
“The project has helped to reconnect the harbour to the village, enhancing Portavogie as a tourist destination. This is complemented by the newly developed heritage guide booklet that provides visitors with a better understanding of the working of the harbour.”
NIFHA Chief Executive Kevin Quigley said: “A £50,000 investment in free Wi-Fi provides a much needed communication channel for fishermen while they are in the harbours. On-line communication is also key to presenting interesting stories, activities and local business information to visitors, through mobile devices.
“The NIFHA has worked closely with both local councils to provide the best reach and to maintain and support this service into the future”.
Isabel hood, Chair of the SLLP’s Advisory Committee said: ”The SLLP developed an accredited training course and resource through Countryside Management Services and Archaeology NI, that was delivered in each of the fishing communities. Over thirty people now have skills and recognised World Host and City and Guilds qualifications to be ambassadors for their area. Some have already put their newly acquired skills to good use, generating revenue and promoting their area as guided walk tour guides.”
The SLLP undertook photography and interviews with fishermen, harbourmasters and others to produce a Fishing Heritage booklet that describes the industry, the ports and the people in a very accessible way. It features photographs by Bernie Brown.
This booklet complements a video produced by Seafish through the same funding stream earlier this year. The materials were designed by McCadden Design and all of the literature is available for download from:
The related apps are also available from app stores under Strangford Heritage Trail or Mourne Heritage Trail.
The launch, which took place in Ardglass, also saw the publication of a County Down Seafood Report, commissioned by the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership and produced by BTS working with Poseidon ARM Ltd.
The Report is intended to help develop a local and visitor market for locally landed fish in County Down as part of a wider focus on locally produced food.
Tourism NI have indicated that the Strangford Lough Destination (which includes the fishing ports of Ardglass and Portavogie) has a higher proportion of artisan food producers than anywhere else in Northern Ireland and the neighbouring Mourne Destination also has a strong food representation.
(The Maritime Heritage Tourism initiative was funded by the European Union and the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development, through Axis 4 of the European Fisheries Fund, administered by the South East Area (SEA) European Fisheries Fund.)