Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Top of Denmark

So, despite recent appearances from this blog, I am actually in Denmark to see some fish and not just go dancing. I’m living in Hirtshals, a town on the North Sea in the northern tip of Jutland. Usually this region is considered as part of the Danish peninsula that sticks out into the sea from Germany and separates the North Sea to the west from the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea to the east. Technically, though, I’m actually living on an island known as Vendsyssel-Thy (the north Jutland island), since Limfjord, which runs through Jutland near the city of Aalborg (to the south of Hirtshals) cuts across the entire peninsula. It’s a fairly recent island, though: until 1825, Limfjord was more like a classic fjord, with the only opening to the ocean to the east on the Kattegat. A large flood in February 1825 broke through the isthmus that had previously connected Vendsyssel-Thy to the rest of Jutland and created Limfjord’s outlet the North Sea to the west. So now Limfjord is more like a strait or a sound than a fjord and I get to continue my trend for this year of living on islands.

As you can probably guess from the reference to all of the varied seas and from the fact that this is a blog about my adventures studying fisheries, there is a lot of fishing in northern Denmark, and particularly in Hirtshals, which has a large harbor and fishing fleet of both large and small fishing boats. However, Hirtshals is not only a good place to see the Danish fisheries firsthand because of its central place in Denmark’s fishing industry, but also a particularly good place to study fisheries because the North Sea Center, a major research facility for scientists, fishing industry organizations, and other researchers (also where I’m living), is located just a few minutes walk from town. After spending most of my time in Iceland getting to know the scientists and scientific research methods used to evaluate the fishery, I’ve shifted my focus a bit for my time in Denmark and now am getting to know the cod fishery here more from the perspective of the policies and regulatory framework itself.

I’m working with an organization called IFM (Innovative Fisheries Management), which focuses on studying the fishing industry, coastal communities, and policy-making bodies involved in fisheries regulations from a sociological perspective. This is a really good starting point for getting into the fishery here because it gives me a chance to look at a broad comparative picture between a number of different countries and really get a sense of how some of the overall policy frameworks work (or don’t work). I’m helping put together the final analysis for a project comparing the implementation of total allowable catch (TAC) management systems in Denmark, Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Spain, which has helped me both to get into the details of how the management systems work in different countries (and especially in understanding Denmark in the context of the EU). In theory, I don’t really like the idea of working on something so “academic” as an official project that culminates in a published book as part of my year of adventure, but I think I will feel that I’ve missed something central without looking at some of the nitty-gritty details of how the system works on a large scale and this is pretty hard to figure out experientially. Plus, since part of what I’m trying to understand is policy-making, this is a bit of a chance to see how the policy-making structure is understood by people inside the system.

Working with IFM and living in Hirtshals is also ideal for actually getting to know some of the Danish fishermen and get a first-hand view of how the fishing industry works on a local scale, since the other people at IFM have a lot of good connections with the fishing organizations here. Getting access to these connections has been fairly slow, however, and I’ve been struggling a bit to define what I’m doing here. The guesthouse where I’m living at the North Sea Center is very comfortable and I feel like my small explorations of the area along with my work on the project for IFM aren’t quite adventurous enough to properly do what I’m intending to/trying to/supposed to do with this year. I’ve been starting to realize, though, that living in a small town in northern Jutland is not by its nature terribly adventurous, and so I’ve been taking the chance to see the area and get to know the place I’m living for it's simpler beauty.

And, as it turns out, the place I’m living is – like much of Denmark – beautifully picturesque. The light, and particularly the sunsets, are consistently among the most gorgeous I have ever seen – this light was actually made famous in the late 1800s by an artist colony that moved to Skagen, about 50 kilometers north of here at the tip of Vendsyssel-Thy. I’ll write more about some of my actual adventures soon, but for now, here are some pictures to give you the sense of the area here in northern Jutland.

This lighthouse is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Hirtshals.

This style of building, and particularly the bright yellow color, is also classically Danish, and together with this statue of a fish, is another characteristic picture of Hirtshals.

The small boats in the town harbor are also a classic view of Hirtshals. These are types of fishing boats that go out just for the day, the type of fishing boats that are disappearing very rapidly in the pushes to deal with overcapacity in the fishing industry by scrapping old boats. The new individual vessel quota system means that you have to buy a boat in order to buy that boat’s fishing quota, so there are a lot of boats in the harbor now that aren’t fishing anymore because their quota was transferred to a larger, longer-distance boat while the small boats just stay in the harbor. Many, of course, are still fishing, but this view of the harbor shows more boats than are actually still working.

Like in Iceland, fishing isn’t just a job – it’s also a common leisure activity.

Fishing and maritime culture are also an integral part of everything here, from the pubs...
(this one fairly touristy, attached to a hotel downtown)

(and this one, which I went to my first weekend here and heard a local band playing covers of American, British, and Danish pop music and met a decidedly local crowd) the street names.

And even if you don’t notice fishing culture walking through town, you can't miss the smell of herring from the processing plants.

Even the Legos, a Danish invention (the name actually comes from the Danish leg godt – “play well”) and thus sold in pretty much every store, have a maritime theme.

The best part of being here though, and the thing that has really sold me on Hirtshals, are the sunsets over the ocean, whether looking along the coast towards the lighthouse...or out at the fishing boats coming back at nightfall.

or just at the waves and the sea and the sky.

1 comment:

Sharon said...

love your sunset photos