The Course: Sustainability in practice - The coastal community of Thorupstrand, Denmark

How to live a meaningful life without compromising the ability of others and future generations to experience the same

Thorupstrand is a small fishing village on the Danish North Sea coast. People have lived here for 1000s of years always adapting to the changing environment. Today, the basis of the community is fishing. Fishing has always offered perspectives for future generations here as long as the delicate relationship between exploitation and regeneration of the natural resources and human needs could be maintained. With the growing ability of humans to alter whole ecosystems - even far away from their home - this has become increasingly more difficult.

In the major port cities of the North Sea an industry of large-scale fishery is dominating. Their economies of scale rely on large vessel capacity and bottom trawling gear with high fuel consumption. They are mobile and can travel far distances for fishing. The fishers of Thorupstrand do not want to fish far away. They want to live and base their fishery where their families have lived for generations.

To understand how people in the region have managed to remain the last commercial landing place in the whole area, it is necessary to understand the elements and relations of the human and natural networks.

Introduction. Speaker: Thomas Højrup, Mathilde Autzen

Understanding the Ecosystem

The fishing village Thorupstrand is located on the north faced coastline of Jutland, Denmark, in the bay called Jammerbugten. The seabed of Skagerrak, the northern part of the North Sea, is characterized by chalk reefs, gravel, gutters and sandy areas near land. Further out there are several successive rock reefs between the sandbanks, old peat- and forest floor, soft holes, seaweed forests and limestone peaks with sandy bottom areas between.

The Fishing

The catching area of the Thorupstrand fishers is the southern part of the Skagerrak. They fish from the longshore bars along the shore to the rich slopes along the 800 meters deep Norwegian Deep. The fishery takes place within 20-25 nautical miles from the coast and the vessels (fishing boats) are mostly at sea for less than 24 hours. This means that the catch is landed daily.


Understanding the community

In Thorupstrand there is no harbor. The vessels are hauled on to the shore at the so-called landing place after each fishing trip. This way of landing is the traditional way of fishing from the west coast of Jutland. The vessels used are all boats capable of being hauled on the beach. Most of them are wooden boats made of oak and a few are made from fiberglass. The boats need to be solid, but light in order to be hauled on shore – and this excludes large engines as a catch enhancing factor. Thus, a lot of the work on board is still done by man power.

Vessels on the beach

Neo liberal capitalism and place based economies

The quota system:

In the early 2000s, the then-Danish government decided to introduce a new market-based management system for the country’s fisheries. Based on the concept of Individual Transferable Quota, it was a severe and far-reaching break with Danish fishing management traditions based on regulated equal and open access. In the new system the market replaced the state as the distributor of Danish fishing rights and the fishing quotas were tied to the existing fishing vessels, enabling boat owners to sell their allocated quotas for high market prices. As a result, investors, who had the eager backing of capital, started monopolizing fishing rights.

Fish auction

Leave your thoughts for further discussion

  • What is sustainable in this community, what is not?
  • What is your idea for the future?
  • What needs to be done?
  • Can you contribute anything yourself?
  • Do you know similar situations?
  • ...
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