Foraging for fishy facts – recording oral history of the coast for DWT

Coastwise North Devon is a newly formed organisation which promotes knowledge, enthusiasm and care for our seas and coastline. Working in association with Devon Wildlife Trust we are launching an oral history project on Tuesday 21st October, at Ilfracombe Museum. We will be collecting information from people with any knowledge of how the marine life of our local coast has changed during the last sixty years or so.

This is part of Devon Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas project, funded by the Sustainable Development Fund administered by North Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. For more information about how to get involved wherever you are contact project co-ordinator Paula Ferris 01271 812789, or [email protected]

Coastwise volunteers will use sound recording as the best way to capture local knowledge of the wealth of marine life in our seas and on our shores, stretching roughly from Combe Martin to Hartland, so that it is available to conservationists and policy makers now and in the future.

Coastwise Chair Paula Ferris says “This is oral history with a difference. We are foraging for fishy facts for the sake of our seas. True, we are just local volunteers who want to chat with you about the coast, and see anything you have that illustrates your memories. But by doing so we intend to bring together information that will help make the case for the future protection of our coast and seas.

If you have lived in North Devon for a good while and care about the coast the chances are you have some information for us. We have lots of questions. We want to know whether you went to the coast to find seafood, to harvest seaweed, collect wood for fuel or shells for artwork, or to keep tabs on your favourite rock-pool animals. Maybe you have noticed changes to the shore and its wildlife when you have been rock-pooling, sea fishing, diving or snorkelling.”

Coastwise committee member Jill Portsmouth said “This is a really exciting project that gives lots of people the opportunity to contribute their memories and become part of a fascinating glimpse into the history of life on the North Devon coast for both the creatures of the sea and the local people.”

Coastwise is planning meetings at four local centres, two north of the estuary at Ilfracombe and Braunton, and two at locations south of the estuary. Those in the Ilfracombe area with memories to share are invited to come to our first meeting at Ilfracombe Museum between 4pm and 6pm on Tuesday 21st October to talk about the project and arrange a time and place for the recording that is best for them - possibly there and then.

The information collected will be used to raise awareness of the local marine environment and provide a source of information for conservationists and policy makers planning the creation of the UK network of marine conservation zones under the government’s proposed Marine Bill.

North Devon is believed to be pioneering the collection of this kind of information to feed into marine policy, and is well placed to do so. Respect for the land and sea, and the resources they provide, is still much in evidence today. The project aims to tap into this continuity of skills and knowledge.

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