Recently the Fair Seas team attended Iveragh Learning Landscapes weekend in Waterville County Kerry. The weekend was filled with inspiring talks and shared stories from changemakers right across the kingdom as well as further afield. 

The weekend was organised by Seasynergy and was in association with Stories of Change. Seasynergy is a marine awareness and activity centre based in Waterville founded by marine biologist Lucy Hunt. Lucy recently appeared in our new short film ‘Fair Seas – The Kingdom of Kerry’ which we premiered on the opening night of the weekend. The film explores the connection between a broad array of coastal community members to the sea and their opinions on the introduction of Marine Protected Areas. More screenings are to be announced soon. 

Stories of change is a travelling exhibition that is inspiring climate action by sharing stories, showing solutions and celebrating people right across Ireland. The Creative Ireland funded project is coordinated by LK Howells and her team of curious creatives.

The weekend was a mix of sea safaris, stand-up paddle boarding, seaweed foraging and delicious food cooked up by William McElhinney and his daughter Niamh from Wild Strands. William established Wild Strands Ltd, a creative maritime food tourism sustainable food company, to promote the many wonders of seaweed through education, food, tourism, and mindfulness. 

In between the delicious meals and outdoor activities panel discussions were held with experts working in the fields of nature conservation, social diversity and inclusion as well as climate action. Fair Seas policy officer Dr. Donal Griffin was on Saturday’s expert panel to discuss our work on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Irish waters. The panel was hosted by LK Howells from Stories of Change and also included Danni Washington, a US-based Discovery TV host & Science communicator, Vincent Hyland of Wild Derrynane and Lucy Hunt of Sea Synergy. 

The panellists shared stories of how they first fell in love with the ocean and offered solutions for anyone that wants to take action to protect it. 

 

The panel, left to right: Donal Griffin, Danni Washington, Vincent Hyland and Lucy Hunt.

 

Danni Washington helped connect the big picture by stating that obviously, we are all ocean people, “we can use the ocean as a storytelling vehicle to connect” – “our blue backyard may differ from Florida to south Kerry, it is all connected”. Dani spoke about how can we find avenues and portals to share our ocean stories. Danni continued by explaining how “it is most important that people feel a belonging, this comes from an invitation.” This led to a lively discussion on how we can invite more people into our conversations about our ocean. 

Friday night’s panel hosted by Orla Snook Carroll of locally made Valentia Vermouth included local researchers such as Lucy Taylor from the Live Iveragh Eco Museum. Lucy and her team have been studying the biodiversity of the Iveragh Peninsula along with its cultural and potential socio-economic importance. LIVE has been using the ecomuseum model of cooperative marketing to create a powerful suite of digital and non-digital resources for eco and educational tourism in the region.

Another researcher on the panel that is making some exciting new discoveries on and around the Iveragh Peninsula is Anna Kellagher. Anna is the Activities Officer at Seasynergy and has been busy exploring the waters around Iveragh and training with Seasearch Ireland to learn how to identify the myriad of marine life the area supports. Anna is very passionate about the Portmagee channel and believes she may have come across a very rare European oyster population living there. 

Over the summer of 2022, Anna and others rescued three common dolphins, including a mother and calf. On reflection of her summer in south Kerry Anna highlighted the need to provide young people with opportunities to get involved with real actions that they can take to help biodiversity.

From foaming seas to freshwater streams, Stephen O Shea highlighted the work that the Pearl Mussel Project EIP is doing and highlighted the role of this unique species in our freshwater ecosystems. A major ‘wow’ moment among the weekend’s audience was when Stephen informed us all that a single pearl mussel can live for 140 years and is an indicator of excellent water quality.

210 farmers have engaged with the pearl mussel project on the Iveragh peninsula Stephen O Shea highlighted the value of having an expert based locally for farmers to contact to sort out teething issues and provide mandatory farming training. The benefit of covid was adapting towards smaller training sessions meant that sessions became much more engaging and beneficial to the local farmers and the project. 

 

Woodland foraging, one of the weekend’s many outdoor activities.

 

Staying with the farming theme, Luke Myers is the Project Biodiversity Officer at Kerry Eco-Social Farming. Luke shared the panel with Stephen O Shea and left us all with one of the most beautiful quotes of the weekend. Kerry Eco-Social Farming is a locally-led, community-based, shared service that provides farming and social inclusion opportunities to people with physical and intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries and those engaging with mental health services, all within their local communities. On explaining the importance of the organisation Luke said: “Just like in nature, diversity is also essential in our communities so that they can be rich and nourishing environments where all its members can thrive”. 

All in all, every attendee left the weekend feeling inspired, engaged and excited to do all they can to help nature and tackle the climate crisis. The weekend in Waterville fostered a powerful sense of connection and ambition and made taking action for climate and nature feel a whole lot more accessible.  

To sum it all up we’ll leave you with a simple yet powerful take-home quote from Danni Washington that we must all remember when feeling like we don’t know where to start, “Think globally, act locally.”

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