The Tides they are a Changin’: Resources, Regulation, and Resilience in an Icelandic Coastal Community

Matthias Kokorsch


Icelandic coastal communities face major socio-economic and demographic challenges. Multiple reasons can be identified, among them restricted access to fishing grounds with de facto privatisation through the introduction of individual transferable quotas in 1990, which caused substantial stress to the economic structure of numerous fisheries-dependent towns and villages. The aim of this case study is to reveal the coping strategies of one such place that once was a thriving fishing village. The underlying theoretical framework is that of social resilience, here understood as the ability of a system to adapt to changes and disturbances. The case study is based on a mixed methodology approach, including structured interviews with key informants and workshops with various groups, including young adolescents, entrepreneurs and the general public. The chosen case study site is a place that has lost almost all land-based jobs in fisheries, but where the former fish processing facilities have been transformed into places of cultural activity and for research and development. It therefore provides a good example of a shift from extractive industries towards creative and knowledge-based industries. This does not only invite the emergence of innovative pathways, but also increases the ability to attract young talent from outside, and to keep educated and skilled people in the community. Potentials and capacities for further increasing the social robustness of the community are identified in the paper.

Key words: Iceland, social resilience, coping strategies, fisheries, ITQs

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.