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Place-based fishing livelihoods and the global ocean: the Irish pelagic fleet at home and abroad Donkersloot, Rachel; Menzies, Charles Dec 8, 2015

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RESEARCH Open AccessPlace-based fishing livelihoods and the globalocean: the Irish pelagic fleet at home and abroadRachel Donkersloot1* and Charles Menzies2* Correspondence:rachel@akmarine.org1Alaska Marine ConservationCouncil, PO Box 101145, Anchorage,Alaska 99510, USAFull list of author information isavailable at the end of the articleAbstractThis paper examines the development of the Irish pelagic fleet and how it has impactedplace-based fishing livelihoods in southwest County Donegal, both positively andnegatively. As part of this effort, we consider how shifting local and global sociopoliticalrealities have shaped linkages between resource access and people-place connections insouthwest Donegal. We pay particular attention to how Irish fishing opportunities, bothat home and abroad, are created and constrained under EU governance and how thisdrives the displacement of fishing livelihoods from coastal southwest Donegal. Weidentify power as a key and dynamic mechanism underlying fishery systems in the Irishcontext. Drawing on interview and ethnographic data we discuss how power isperceived and exercised among local fishery stakeholders, and how this in turnworks to shape contemporary adaptive strategies in rural fishery dependent Ireland.Keywords: Political ecology; Social-environmental systems; EU Common FisheriesPolicy; Power; Irish fishing communitiesIreland’s Premier Fishing Port: an introductionThe importance of the Irish fishing industry to coastal Ireland, particularly in the ruralwest and northwest regions of the country, is often eclipsed in a national narrativewhich takes Ireland from the largely agrarian society that it was up until the 1960s tothe ‘haven for multi-national corporations’ it has become in more recent decades (MacLaughlin 1994:28). This helps in part to explain why commercial fisheries are not adominant area of social inquiry in the field of Irish studies.1 Despite this absence, fish-eries form the social and economic foundation of many rural Irish coastal communities.This is especially true of southwest County Donegal. Located in the peripheral northwestcorner of the Republic, County Donegal is home to Killybegs—Ireland’s Premier FishingPort – as well as several smaller surrounding villages sustained by a combination ofsmall-scale fishing and farming operations supplemented with seasonal employment inKillybegs fish factories.Killybegs experienced rapid industrialization throughout the 1970s and 1980s due tothe development of an offshore midwater pelagic trawler fleet targeting mackerel aswell as herring, horse mackerel (skad), and more recently blue whiting and boarfish.The mackerel fishery brought a measure of prosperity and opportunity to Killybegsunheard of in a region often referred to as an employment blackspot, if not entirely‘forgotten’ (see Donkersloot 2010).2 Broadly speaking, this paper examines the devel-opment of the Irish pelagic fleet and how it has impacted Killybegs and place-based© 2015 Donkersloot and Menzies. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction inany medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commonslicense, and indicate if changes were made.Donkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 DOI 10.1186/s40152-015-0038-5fishing livelihoods, both positively and negatively. As part of this effort we explore theways in which key processes impacting local fishing livelihoods are embedded in rela-tions of power, especially in the context of fisheries policy, and how this works to in-form local understandings of what is possible in place.Key objectives: considering place and power in resource governanceThis paper focuses on the complex and changing linkages between fishing communities,fishermen and fishery resources in southwest Donegal. We describe how historical rela-tions and shifting local and global sociopolitical realities have shaped linkages between re-source access and people-place connections in the region. We pay particular attention tohow Irish fishing opportunities, both at home and abroad, have been created and con-strained under EU governance and how this changing resource base drives the displace-ment of fishing livelihoods from coastal southwest Donegal.Our approach is grounded in a political ecology perspective which combines “theconcerns of ecology and a broadly defined political economy. Together this encom-passes the constantly shifting dialectic between society and resources, and also withinclasses and groups within society itself” (Blaikie and Brookfield 1987:17). We explicitlyconsider power here as a key and dynamic mechanism underpinning the development,delocalization and decline of fishing opportunities in northwest Ireland (Jentoft 2007;see also Bryant 1998; Schroeder et al. 2006; Blaikie 2001).Jentoft (2007:433) describes power as an understated and understudied aspect offisheries research contending that “if we want to understand how natural and socialsystems change, we should focus on how power works in fisheries and coastal settings.”Drawing on interview and ethnographic data, we highlight the ways in which power,operating across multiple scales and through myriad social, political, economic andenvironmental processes, is perceived and exercised among a diverse suite of fisherystakeholders in Killybegs. Specifically, we explore how power 1) underpins linkages inthe condition and change of social/environmental systems (Robbins 2004), and 2) impactscontemporary adaptive strategies and perceived “potential for change” in southwestDonegal (Boulding 1990 cited in Jentoft 2007). An underlying objective of this paperis to broaden its resonance beyond the Irish context and advance efforts to more cen-trally incorporate social goals and place-based community interests and opportunitiesin fisheries management models (see for example Macinko 2007; St. Martin et al. 2007;Stoll and Holliday 2014).Methods and materialsThis paper is based on one year of ethnographic research carried out in southwest Don-egal in 2007–2008, followed by a return visit in 2010. Fieldwork included more than 60semi-structured face-to-face interviews. Participants included active and retired fishermen(e.g. vessel owners, skippers and crew), industry representatives, fish factory workers,community and regional leaders, fishery managers, and local youth from both fishing andnon-fishing backgrounds. Interview questions focused on individual and family fishingbackgrounds, work experience, sense of place and community, views on fisheries manage-ment and EU fisheries governance, and attitudes toward fishing as an occupation and wayof life. Data for this paper comes primarily from interviews with 15 project participants.Donkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 2 of 19Interview materials are supplemented with a more recent review of secondary sourcesand literature including data from the Central Statistics Office, fisheries news and mediastories, government papers, industry reports, and academic literature. To begin, we pro-vide a brief historical overview of the political and economic processes shaping Irish fish-eries development. We then focus on fisheries governance issues, paying special attentionto the EU Common Fisheries Policy from an Irish perspective.The (under)development of Irish FisheriesI’ll never understand it. How can it be that we live on an island, that no matter whereone stands in this country they’re never really too far from the sea, but yet we’ve nevervalued our marine resources? We’ve never looked off the land. (Fishery Manager)In this section we trace the trajectory of Irish fisheries development through periods offamine, colonization, independence and EU integration to evidence the ways in which theIrish fishing industry has been repeatedly undermined through hierarchical integrationinto larger political-economic processes and powers linked to Ireland’s colonial encounterwith Britain. In the quote above, a Killybegs man implicitly captures the chronic under-development of Irish fisheries in the period since the colonization of Ireland. The follow-ing excerpt from History and Antiquities of Killybegs demonstrates how Irish fisheryresources were first and foremost a ‘commodity of the Queen’ (Molloy 2004:31).In the year 1556 an arrangement was entered into between Philip of Spain andQueen Elizabeth of England whereby Philip was to pay Elizabeth a thousand poundsper annum for permission to fish in Irish waters. […] Louis XIV of France is said tohave paid 10,000 for a like privilege and the Dutch and the Swedes also paid theEnglish monarch large sums for permission to fish in our waters(Conaghan 1979:87).Scholarly analysis and historical accounts reveal the ways in which the developmentof Irish fisheries under Britain’s authority was at times discouraged, expended andsacrificed to serve colonial interests.3 This was not unique to the fisheries sector butpart of wider colonial processes in Ireland. The effects of British maladministrationthroughout the 1800s were exacerbated by famine and ensuing emigration from coastalareas (see for example Molloy 2004:24). Killybegs author Pat Conaghan (1997:31) de-scribes how marine resources spared coastal Donegal from the worst effects of famine,but how famine thwarted development of a viable industry (see also Tucker 1999;Conaghan 1979:97).4Establishing an industryThe first organized effort at establishing a fishing industry in Ireland came in 1891under the newly formed Congested Districts Board (CDB). The Board was establishedto alleviate poverty in the West of Ireland (see Bolger 2002). One of the primary tasksundertaken by the Board was to end people’s dependency on ‘gombeen men,’ known fortheir high interest rates (Tucker 1999:88; see also Taylor 1981; Conaghan 1979:97;Conaghan 2003). In addition to establishing rural credit banks and cooperatives, theDonkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 3 of 19CDB helped to lay the foundation for a viable fishing industry by buying fish directlyfrom fishermen at guaranteed prices and improving access to markets through roadprojects and railway installations into ports (Molloy 2004:45). The CDB also madeimprovements to the catching and processing sectors, including pier construction(including the pier in Killybegs). Despite these advances, the greatest fishing effort tooccur in Irish waters throughout the Board’s tenure was done by foreign fleets (Conaghan2003; Bolger 2002:669). When the CDB dissolved in 1923 following Irish Independence, itleft a half-developed industry in the hands of a young nation burdened by civil war,recession, poverty, emigration and a tendency to value agricultural interests over fish-eries (Bolger 2002:670).The early decadesThe inception of the Sea Fisheries Association (SFA) in 1931 further served to safeguardIrish fishermen from being exploited by gombeen men by improving Irish fishermen’s ac-cess to markets. This point was emphasized by long-time Killybegs fisherman, JamesMcLeod, during an interview in 2007. Invariably described by community members as the‘father of fishing’ and a ‘pioneer of the industry’ in Killybegs, James stressed: “Had it notbeen for the SFA [in the 1930s] I would not have been able to be a fisherman. You’ve heardof gombeen men? Fish buyers here, if you gave it to them for free, they’d want it for half!”Up until the 1940s, the leading fishing ports in Ireland were on the east coast. A risein the importance of pelagic (especially herring) and shellfish landings in the 1950sspurred a westward shift in the distribution of fishing activity in Ireland. By the late1980s, three-quarters of the national catch and employment was occurring in the westand northwest regions of Ireland (Gillmor 1987:172). In this way, the fishing industryplayed a pivotal role in regional development in some of the most disadvantaged andisolated regions of Ireland (ibid.). The Irish Sea Fisheries Board (Bord Iascaigh Mhara(BIM) in Gaelic) was established in 1952 (BIM replaced the SFA). BIM built four boat-yards, including one in Killybegs, and controlled fisheries loans (i.e. loan approvals) andvessel size and design. During this period some of the boat slips in Irish boatyards werelengthened to accommodate vessels up to 90 ft in length. The extension of boat slips to90 ft guided BIM to set the upper limit on boat length in grant and loan schemes at 90ft. This innocuous limit re-emerged amidst a changing Europe in the following decadesas a barrier to development of the Irish fleet by denying vessels over 90 ft state finan-cing through BIM’s loan and grant schemes (see Mansfield 2011 for broader discussionon the ways in which state’s more commonly supported and encouraged fisheriesindustrialization as an economic development strategy during this era).The 1950s was a promising decade for Irish fisheries marked by increased landingsand earnings, market improvements, vessel upgrades and major advancements in fish-ing technology (e.g. net-making and trawling techniques including the advent of mid-water trawling in Donegal). Gillmor (1987:167) notes “a seven fold growth in landingsoccurred in the period 1950–72.” In 1972, Ireland, along with the United Kingdom andDenmark, joined the European Union. EU membership ushered in new uncertaintiesand challenges for the Irish fleet. Chief among these was how an increasingly integratedEurope would impact control over and access to the waters and fishery resources sur-rounding the small island nation.Donkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 4 of 19The Common Fisheries Policy: an Irish perspectiveWe paraded the streets in Dublin. We picketed government buildings, but theagricultural sector wanted to go into the EU… We were a small group, a smallindustry. We hadn’t the votes to influence political decisions. (Community Leader)I repeatedly pose the question, why has Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islandshealthy fishing industries? Because they are not part of the European Union. How doyou keep 14 or 15 countries happy around the table? (Fishing IndustryRepresentative)Following Iceland’s decisive lead, EU member states extended their offshore ExclusiveEconomic Zone (EEZ) from 12 to 200 miles in 1976. The extension to 200 mileshighlighted the limitations of the original Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) first agreed onby the EEC-6 in 1970 and intended to govern a much smaller area. 5 The extension kick-started the arduous process of CFP reform which spanned six angst-filled years (EU mem-ber states finally reached agreement in 1983). Gillmor (1987:174) identifies the lengthyprocess of negotiations as “a disincentive to invest in the fishery due to uncertainty overextent of access to resource and what would be granted to other member states.”The extension of the EU Fishery Zone to 200 hundred miles forced non-EU fishingfleets (e.g. Eastern European fleets) out of Irish waters, but enflamed uncertainty andintense controversy over who within the European Community now possessed the rightto harvest fish from the waters surrounding Ireland (Molloy 2004:72).We joined the EU in 1972. The problem was the Common Fisheries Policy wasn’tagreed [on] until 1983. So there was a period there where guys fished away. Brusselsreally didn’t have that much influence on the total situation until 1983… From thetime we joined the EU we were in discussion with the government regarding whatkind of a deal, what kind of a quota regime, we were going to get out of Brussels.But the French and the Dutch dominated the scenes during that period. (FishingIndustry Representative)The concluding sentence in the above excerpt in particular touches on two salient themesin interviews with Killybegs fishermen and residents: 1) Ireland’s relative powerlessness inthe realm of EU fisheries policy and, related to this, 2) a tendency toward the EU CFP tofavor the most powerful European fishing fleets, especially France and Spain.Relative stability in peripheral placesThere is no commonality within the Common Fisheries Policy. Absolutely none. It’sgeared towards the advantage of those fishing countries, and the fishing countries inthe EU are basically France and Spain and possibly a little bit of Portugal. (InshoreSalmon Fisherman)The CFP is based on a system of ‘relative stability’ whereby each member state isallocated a fixed share (quota) of the EU’s Total Allowable Catch (TAC) based onDonkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 5 of 19historical catch record. 6 Because relative stability is based on catch history, memberstates with a history of fishing off Ireland’s coast (e.g. Spanish, French, Dutch) are al-located quota in the waters surrounding Ireland. 7 Under relative stability, Ireland’sshare of the EU TAC is fixed at 16% for demersal (whitefish) species, 23% for pelagicspecies and 23% of shellfish (Cawley 2006).8The Irish government, at the prodding of protesting fishermen, attempted to imple-ment a unilateral conservation measure in the late 1970s which would have banned allvessels over 34 m from within 50 miles of the Irish coastline. A retired Killybegs white-fish fisherman lamented during an interview how the ban “only lasted 24 h. The Dutchfleet came in. They fished inside the limit. Two boats were arrested. It went to theEuropean Court and Ireland’s unilateral decision was thrown out.” The EU deemedIreland’s efforts discriminatory because Ireland lacked vessels of that size. Efforts toimplement the measure were abandoned by the Irish government in 1978 (Gillmor1987). Similar accounts were offered up over the course of fieldwork as further evi-dence of the Irish government’s failure to protect Irish fishing interests amidst a chan-ging Europe. Even today, many fishermen cite Ireland’s inception into the EU as theroot of most problems plaguing the fishing sector.When Ireland acceded to the EU in 1973, Ireland was in a very poor stateeconomically. We had a huge untapped resource off the west coast here and we hada government who didn’t particularly know what to do with it, or how to develop it.They didn’t have the resources to [develop] it. So the government used it as itsbargaining chip. (Inshore Salmon Fisherman)The problem is, the problem was and still is, that when the CFP was agreed on in1983, and the cake was divided out, we got crumbs instead of cake. (Fishing IndustryRepresentative)The sense of state neglect is especially prominent in County Donegal in part becauseit is intimately entangled with a broader place-based social consciousness saturated insentiments of marginality and being ‘left behind.’ Donegal’s land border is shared pri-marily with Northern Ireland. The making of Ireland’s internal borders in 1922worked to alienate Donegal from the North while peripheralizing it in the South(Wilson and Donnan 2006:159). Donegal shares only a sliver of six miles of landborder with the rest of the Republic. The county’s narrow mooring to the Republiccontinues to carry with it important political-economic connotations that remainpalpable in the current economic climate as well as in contemporary local identitiesand attitudes (Donkersloot 2010).At the end of the day the people in government don’t really care about the people upat this end of the country. …We’re so far out in a peripheral region. We’re out onthe edge. (Killybegs Youth)You could just tell a Donegal person from other people. There’s a unique sort ofculture or attitude or something … I think it’s because we’re out on a limb, youknow. We’re sort of cut off from the rest of the Republic of Ireland. (Killybegs Youth)Donkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 6 of 19Meaningful measures were taken in the early years of CFP reform to address Ireland’spoor historical catch record. The Hague Agreement of 1976 (also known as the HaguePreferences) recognized the high level of fisheries dependence in coastal regions ofIreland and the UK and allows for Irish and UK fleets to access a better share of stockswhen quotas are low due to low resource abundance. In the now ‘famous commitment’(Molloy 2004:64), the Hague Agreement also allowed Ireland to double its catch from1975 to 1979, an increase which would be taken into account in determining Ireland’sshare of the TAC. It was in part then in ‘self-defense,’ as one retired fisherman ex-plained, that the Irish fleet welcomed five 120-ft ‘super trawlers’ to its ranks in 1979/1980. The first of their kind for the small island nation, their arrival marked the begin-ning of a new era for the Irish fishing industry.9Killybegs: from boom to bustAlthough the burgeoning northwest mackerel fishery of the 1980s ultimately put Killy-begs on the pelagic map, earning the town the title of ‘Ireland’s Premier Fishing Port,’ itwas preceded and in many ways facilitated by a very lucrative herring fishery.10Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, ‘big money’ was made in the northwest herringfishery due to herring closures in the North and Celtic Seas (Molloy 2004). These clo-sures caused herring prices in the northwest to spike, luring fishermen from acrossIreland and Europe to Killybegs (Molloy 2006:103). Such was the flood of fishermen toKillybegs between 1971 and 1981 that the population increased by 39.7% (from 1,634to 2,282) (Central Statistics Office 1981). With the reopening of herring fisheries in ad-jacent waters in the early 1980s, herring prices plummeted in the northwest fromroughly £20 a box of herring to £5. The fall in herring prices helped to inspire the es-tablishment of a mackerel fishery.Much like the golden days of herring, the development of the mackerel fishery en-gendered a Klondike mentality. Killybegs pelagic fishermen soon became known as‘mackerel millionaires,’ a title resented among the fleet due to its perceived dismissal ofthe high risks and hard work underpinning their success.11 Gillmor (1987:167) describesthe unusually short time span in which the mackerel fishery developed as well as its low-value, high-volume nature in noting the “total catch increased abruptly in the period1979–82 by 127% in weight but by only 7% in real value terms.” Despite the westwardtransboundary migration of mackerel stocks into Norwegian, and more recently, Icelandand Faroese waters (which has provoked political instability among North Atlantic coastalstates), mackerel continues to be the most important species landed in Killybegs in termsof earnings, onshore employment and exports (Russia, Japan, Nigeria and Egypt compriseprimary markets). Today, the modern Irish pelagic fleet is comprised of 22 trawlers (plusone factory trawler). The largest trawlers in the fleet are known as the ‘Big Five.’ Thesevessels are between 60 to 62 m in length and tow nets with mouth openings of 1,600 m(Molloy 2004:65). The pelagic fleet comprises 1% of the overall Irish fleet and 40% of thecapacity (Cawley 2006).The feverish local economy of Killybegs took a dramatic hit in 2004 with surfacing ofallegations that Killybegs pelagic fishermen were involved in widespread practices of il-legal fishing (e.g. falsified log books, underreported catches, and ignored quota restric-tions and closed fishing areas). The allegations spurred a multi-year investigation andraids of Killybegs fishing vessels, fish factories and homes by Gardia from the NationalDonkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 7 of 19Bureau of Criminal Investigations, resulting in some vessels losing all or part of theirannual quota for certain years. The incident incited an intense wave of fisheries regula-tions and restrictions, including the insertion of fisheries offenses in the 2007 CriminalJustice Bill and the establishment of the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) in2006.12 More broadly, the incident provided fodder for local and national media outletsand left the community and the fishing industry in a state of flux.13Fishing is so quiet and everything is doom and gloom around this town like. It’s allbad news, bad feelings between fishing people. Nothing good seems to be happening.At all. Sometimes I do think to myself, why am I still here? (Killybegs Youth)Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard of the whole [fishing investigations] situation. Since thatthing it’s just turned into a sort of cultural, sort of a community, like everybody isthriving on doom and gloom. Bad news. … People’s spirits are down, it just seems tohave sank with the fishing industry. (Ex-Crewmember, Pelagic Vessel)On the surface, the scandal suddenly crippled the community of Killybegs, both mor-ally and economically. Between 2002 and 2006, while the overall population of CountyDonegal increased by 6.8%, the population of Killybegs declined by 8.3% (CSO 2006).14The declining population of Killybegs is significant because it marks the first time sincethe inception of the Free State in 1922 that Killybegs experienced population decline.Unemployment rates also spiked following the incident reaching 17% for femalesand 25% for males in 2006.15 All of these factors combined to create a common localconsciousness which imagined emigration as the ‘only option’ for the town’s youngpeople.16We argue that the above incident is both symptom and source of the problems pla-guing the Irish fishing sector today. It is an expression of both the Irish pelagic fleet’scontested power and peripherality in the sphere of EU fisheries. Moreover, we arguethat the above incident only partially explains the problematic community-level trendsnoted above. Pointing to a more complex deep-rooted culprit is the fact that of the topten communities in County Donegal to experience the greatest rates of population de-cline between 2002 and 2006, nine were along the coast. In addition to Killybegs, theseinclude the nearby communities of Kilcar (−11.5%) and Glencolumbkille (−6.3%) and thevital fishing communities of Burtonport (−22%), Rathmullen (−8.8%) and Greencastle(−7%) (CSO 2006b).Power and potential for change: problems at home, problems abroadUnderlying the mayhem following the well-publicized scandal in the pelagic sector wasa compounding though much quieter crisis spurred by the twin forces of declining ac-cess and rising operating costs. In this section we draw on examples emblematic of thiscrisis and illustrative of how power, perceived and real, is integral to how local fisherystakeholders make sense of and cope with resource decline and economic volatility.To illustrate, skyrocketing fuel prices threaten the viability of the EU fleet at large butthe full impact of the price spike is not felt evenly across the EU fleet. Member state fleetsare differentially insulated from narrowing profit margins due to the weight of thesector’s political and economic capital which can be leveraged to secure supportDonkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 8 of 19such as state-sponsored fuel subsidies.17 At the time of fieldwork, the politicallypowerful French and Spanish fleets were shored up by state fuel allowances cover-ing 20–25% of fuel costs. Lacking comparable clout, the Irish fishing sector failedto secure similar government support leaving the fleet more vulnerable to escalat-ing operating costs. The account of costs below, tallied by the owner of a pelagicsupertrawler, exemplifies the rising problem.You’re quotas are so tight, you pay so much of that in fuel. We’re looking at almost€18-20,000 Euro [per day in fuel] if you’re fishing a full day. In 2000, it was less than€5000 a day in fuel to run the boat. Our insurance has gone from what should be€50,000 to €60,000 a year, or about €1,000 a week in insurance. We’re at €200,000[now]. So you’re earning less money and your costs have just jumped to high heaven.So there’s so little margin for error now, I mean, if you got a bad year you could bebankrupt before you know it (Pelagic Vessel Owner).Rising fuel costs reverberate through the fleet and fishing community in myriad ways.Increasing costs have had an especially harmful effect on crew well-being and wages inthe Irish whitefish sector which has suffered significant decline in recent decades dueto low stock abundance. (Proposed quota reductions for the 2015 season include a 64%cut for cod and a 41% cut for haddock).You have 40% of your catch going towards fuel, never mind insurance and otherexpenses. Basically the only way the boats can work now, especially in the whitefishsector, is smaller crews. You’re going down a long line then, men are working longerhours and it’s leading to more accidents… Whereas straightaway now, the French andSpanish are getting 20–25% off the top. (Crewmember, Whitefish Vessel)The crew member quoted above went onto suggest that the implementation of anupcoming vessel decommissioning scheme may help to enhance the profitability of thestruggling whitefish sector but skeptically concluded:As long as they don’t turn around now, the way the French are pushing it now withIreland decommissioning 22 boats, they reckon Ireland’s quota should be cut nextyear because of that. The way they’re looking at it, because we [will] have less boats,they want more quota now. The French and the Spanish are doing it that way. So itcould backfire on Ireland, what they’ve done, by decommissioning the 22 boats.In a final example of how power disparities potentially shape adaptive strategies andlocal perceptions of potential for change, a long-time fisherman and industry represen-tative details how recent efforts to implement an EU conservation measure to protectwhitefish stocks (which would have temporarily increased net mesh size from 80 ml to180 ml) were blocked by the voting power of other member states.18The Spanish and the French fleet, they’re big players with big votes. We got threevotes around the table at the EU. Spain has ten. France has ten. The UK has ten. Soif one or two of those big countries vetoes, you’re shagged, you can’t get it throughyou know. And the Spanish, they got a five year hold that they wouldn’t have to goDonkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 9 of 19past 80 mm. So actually we’ve got a voluntary 120 ml here in the UK and Irelandand they’re at 87 you know. So it’s very hard to tell our fishermen, “Hey, you’ve gotto bring up your mesh size when the guy fishing next to you is catching smaller fishyou know.”Taken together, this discursive suite of examples highlights not only the myriad socio-political and economic processes impacting fishing livelihoods in southwest Donegaltoday, but also how these processes are embedded in relations of power which informlocal understandings of what is possible in place. The juxtaposing of Irish to Frenchand Spanish capabilities to affect and respond to change is characteristic of a broadertendency among local stakeholders in southwest Donegal to situate themselves, quiteprecariously, at the margins of decision-making and governance of local fishery re-sources. This is the lens through which we refract local strategies and perspectivesdiscussed below.The underlying ethos of overdevelopmentRoughly 75% of European fish stocks are currently overfished and EU fleet capacitycontinues to exceed resource availability.19 This enduring imbalance is perhaps themost marked example of the overall structural failings of the EU CFP (EuropeanCommission 2009; Farrell et al. 2012, see also Hoffman and M. Quass 2014). DespiteIreland’s late start in the game of commercial fisheries, the small island nation has notevaded problems of overcapacity. The pinnacle of overdevelopment in Irish fisheriescame in 2001 with the arrival of the Atlantic Dawn, the largest supertrawler in the worldat the time. The Atlantic Dawn was controversial from the outset in part because the Irishdomestic fleet (and EU fleet) were overcapacity prior to vessel construction. While waitingfor Irish and EU authorities to figure out how to include the Atlantic Dawn on fully-flexed national and EU fishing vessel registries, (the vessel was initially added to the Irishvessel registry as a troop carrier), the vessel spent its first two years fishing off the coast ofMauritania under a private agreement with the Mauritanian government.At 144 m in length and 24 m in breadth, the Atlantic Dawn has the ability to catch,process and hold 7,000 tonnes of fish. At the time of its launching, vessel owner, KevinMcHugh, was quoted in a local newspaper saying that he “wanted to bring fishing inIreland onto a par with the rest of the world.”20 Ireland’s Minister of Marine dubbed thevessel’s arrival as “one of the proudest moments of the Irish fishing industry.”21 Thoughexceptional and disconcerting, the story of the Atlantic Dawn is symbolic of the directionand underlying ethos driving fisheries development in Killybegs in recent decades.The modern pelagic fleet of Killybegs has undergone multiple rounds of renovationssince the start of the fishery in the early 1980s. Ireland’s first five supertrawlers launchedin 1979/1980 have transformed into today’s ‘Big 5.’ Signs of overcapacity in the Irish fleetas early as the 1990s have not stopped vessel owners from vessel improvements and ex-pansions allowing the fleet to fish further offshore and target new species (e.g. bluewhiting, boar fish).22 The most recent round of vessel upgrades in the fleet occurredin 2003/2004 when seven ‘new’ vessels rejoined the fleet (Molloy 2004:83).The larger trawlers in the fleet typically spend a significant portion of the fall fisheryfishing for mackerel in Norwegian and Scottish waters (and further westward in morerecent years as stocks shift), where the mackerel are fatter and of higher quality andDonkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 10 of 19value.23 During these times, Irish vessels land their catches into foreign ports. Beyondthe North Atlantic, Irish pelagic vessels are also increasingly looking to EU-ThirdCountry Agreements, such as the EU/Mauritania Fisheries Protocol and the EU Fisher-ies Treaty with Morocco, as a means to enhance vessel viability and avoid increasingfishing restrictions at home. In 2009, four Killybegs pelagic trawlers were also grantedlicenses to fish in international waters beyond Chile’s 200-mile EEZ in the South Pa-cific. A Killybegs pelagic vessel owner described the fleets’ growing exploitation of for-eign waters as a survival strategy: “If we are to survive we have to go out and fight forit.”24 The growing delocalization of the Irish pelagic fleet is working to remake people-place connections in complex and diverse ways, some more visible than others.People-place disconnections in southwest DonegalThe Atlantic Dawn was sold to a Dutch company in the mid-2000s but around a dozensouthwest Donegal fishermen continue to work aboard and abroad under Dutch own-ership. A favorite story circulating through Killybegs at the time of fieldwork described‘local lads’ coming ashore on Easter Island on a container ship as part of an AtlanticDawn crew change. The crew was subsequently picked up by the fishing vessel andcontinued onto fishing grounds in the South Pacific. The more widespread spatialexpansion of the Irish pelagic fleet ensures that there are more local lads joining theranks of global fishermen. A crewmember interviewed for this project connected hisglobal fishing experience to his sense of identity and shifting connection to place: “Iwould see [myself] as more European than Irish. We’re fishing with a Dutch company.Last year it was a Scotch company. You have to go away from home to work at thispoint in time.” He continued:I fished Mauritania and while I was fishing there I was landing in Las Palmasand Agadear in Morocco. I fished in European waters from the north of Norwayto the south of France… And then fishing in the international waters off Chile Ilanded in Peru. I’ve come ashore on a container ship to Easter Island in themiddle of the Pacific. I got collected by a container ship in Puntarenaus in thesouth of Chile and went ashore to Fallpalaso. And I’ve seen more airports thatyou can shake a stick at.The departure of Killybegs pelagic vessels has instilled in many community members,especially of the younger generation, the sense that the fishing industry is quite literallyvanishing from the local landscape.There was fish being landed all the time. All of the bigger boats were landing backhome too. The smaller pelagic and the medium sized pelagic [vessels], they’d all belanding local so they would. Factories were getting regular supply all the time.(Killybegs Youth)You’d see fish being loaded and unloaded constantly in huge amounts and that reallydoesn’t happen anymore so you don’t actually see the industry actively going on asmuch. … The streets used to be covered in fish, they were falling out of lorries theywere so full… (Killybegs Youth)Donkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 11 of 19You’d be unloading, you’re actually standing on the pier, working nets. … You usedto get the gang gathered there [at the town pier] every morning but you never see itnow. (Crewmember, Whitefish Vessel)The outpacing of resource availability by advancing fishing technology paired withshifts in local resource abundance and expanding global opportunities (many times en-couraged through controversial subsidies) is working to push the pelagic fleet beyondthe benefit of southwest Donegal coastal communities (see Watson, Zeller and Pauly2011:2; Sumaila et al. 2010; Mansfield 2011). The excerpts above paint, albeit withbroad strokes, a picture of how places like Killybegs can be affected by local and globalshifts in resource access patterns. The last excerpt in particular touches on the ways inwhich local social relations are potentially disrupted by changes in access to fishery re-sources. Britton (2014) alludes to the social change associated with this shifting dy-namic in noting the rise of “men’s sheds” in Killybegs.25 Men’s sheds can be understoodas an attempt to recreate the social space and practices underpinning relations andidentities once forged through and around the local fishing industry.The restructuring of ties between fleet and community has also greatly impacted the livesand livelihoods of Killybegs fish factory workers, perhaps the most understudied and leastvisible group of local fishery stakeholders. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s employment inthe Killybegs processing sector grew to comprise 83% of all employment in the local shore-based fishery sector (Donnchadha et al. 2000:30). Donnchadha et al. (2000:30) identify thenumber of people employed directly in the fish processing sector in Killybegs in the late1990s as 1,533 (with 659 of these full-time, permanent positions). This means that Killy-begs fish factories employed 4.4% of persons at work in County Donegal, and 24.6% of theAgriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sector (ibid). During these years Killybegs fish factoriesprovided employment for the entire southwest region of Donegal. Each day busloads ofworkers were transported from surrounding communities to the factories in Killybegs.At the start of fieldwork in 2007, Killybegs fish factories were still reeling from theslowdown in supply stemming from the investigations into illegal fishing. The once abun-dant employment in fish factories had become an intermittent and unreliable source ofwork. While residents of Killybegs and surrounding communities are acutely aware of theincreasing precariousness of local factory work, easily quantifiable hardship stemmingfrom loss of regular hours and income remains somewhat difficult to discern.Part of the problem we have in Killybegs is that the unemployment figures haven’tshown themselves dramatically as yet because what you have is workers that are stillemployed, seasonal workers in a seasonal industry, who are still, as I would put it,nominally employed who would have previously worked a nine month season andnow are reduced to a three or four month season with an awful lot of days off withinthose three or four months. So less than half their previous time at work, less thanhalf of their earnings. (Community Leader)The decline in local factory work coincided with the closure of the commercial sal-mon gillnet fishery in 2007, an outcome of an EU Habitats Directive. Many fish factoryworkers in southwest Donegal supplement their seasonal factory income with inshorefishing opportunities in the summer months, especially salmon and lobster. TheDonkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 12 of 19compounding and destabilizing effect of the loss of both fishery dependent livelihoodsis driving some (primarily male) Donegal residents to find work outside of the region,often traveling to urban centers such as Galway and Dublin. Typically, these new ‘com-muters’ spend the work week away and return home at the weekend. A long-time resi-dent and inshore salmon fisherman reflects on this new work-home cycle below.We’ve allowed our marine resources to be taken over by Irish and foreign offshoreinterests. We’ve driven out our artisanal inshore fishermen. We’ve negated them.We’ve made it worthless and not worthwhile. You have people like myself now thattravel 150 miles to work. And work away for the week and then come home. I don’twant to do that. I don’t have any choice. And it’s wrong. And the biggest reason it’swrong is because it’s not sustainable. What I do is not sustainable. How many yearsis it going to be before I can’t afford to drive 150 miles to go to work?Steeped in sentiments of frustration and resentment, there is a lot to unpack in thispassage. Central here is the distinction and imbalance of power between offshore andinshore fishing interests (see also St. Martin 2001), the value attached to the latter, asense of increasing insecurity and exile from one’s home community, and the implica-tions this has for one’s quality of life. Another participant refracted the weekly exodusof local residents through the lens of the community describing how neighbors andfriends were missed when no longer able to act as full participants in community lifeand culture. Specific examples ranged from empty boat harbors to one’s absence at aneighbor’s funeral to unfilled roles in local pub life, music and theater, and especially inthe arena of local sports as participants, spectators, coaches or referees.Former crewmembers of local whitefish vessels are among those who leave home forthe work week. The Irish whitefish fleet is comprised of 1,573 vessels, and the vast ma-jority (1,360) of these vessels are under 12 m in length (approximately 300 more vesselsare between 12 and 24 m) (Cawley 2006). This means that contrary to the global ma-neuvering taking place in the pelagic sector, whitefish boats are entirely dependent onlocal resource abundance. Today, crew positions aboard Irish whitefish vessels are in-creasingly filled by foreign agency workers from Eastern European and Southeast Asiancountries. Despite the incredible rise and decline of the pelagic fleet in Killybegs, onelong-time fisherman considered the biggest change in the local fishing industry in hislifetime to be “that you couldn’t get crew for whitefish boats.” He continued:Up until the late 1990s there was a good living to be made in the whitefish. We had anall Irish crew in every one of the boats. And you had plenty of time off. Fishing was goodand you had time off. But from 2000 on really, foreigners started to come on then, youjust couldn’t get crew to go out. I don’t know. Money was too good ashore. Like a lot ofthe boys that I fish with, they all left to go to Dublin. You could make better money inDublin and you were home every weekend, that’s the way they looked at it.Conclusion: recognizing the importance of place in fisheries policyYou have to be very careful what progress does. I seen progress. Progress to mewiped out our fishing community. (Fish Factory Worker)Donkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 13 of 19In this paper we have worked to reveal the ways in which shifting local and global socio-political realities affect people-place connections and place-based fishing livelihoods insouthwest Donegal. As part of this effort we help to locate Ireland in the broader literatureon industrial fisheries in the Global North. What is unique about the particular trajectory offisheries development in southwest Donegal is the underlying power dynamics driving de-velopment which remain rooted in inequities stemming from Ireland’s colonial encounterwith Britain (see also Bryant 1998; Schroeder et al. 2006; Blaikie 2001).Although our intended focus has been on the modern pelagic fleet, we have also broad-ened the purview of fisheries dependence in southwest Donegal beyond the offshore pela-gic fleet. St. Martin et al. (2006:223) call for “broadening attention to the social dimensionsof ecosystems, [including a need to shift] social science understandings of fishing towardcontext and inter-relationships amongst and between fishermen and fishing communities;a sensitivity to locations and how they are inhabited by communities and socio-economicprocesses and fish harvesting practices across multiple scales.” The implications of lost orincreasingly limited access to local fishery resources are often overshadowed in the domin-ant narrative of Killybegs which revolves around the rise and decline of the industrial fleet.A political ecology perspective attentive to intersections of place and power creates spacefor these accounts and connections to emerge from the margins as a central dimension offishing community sustainability. Folding these livelihoods into this narrative of place re-veals a dynamic and diverse collection of social, political and ecological events and condi-tions at play in the remaking of people-place connections in southwest Donegal. What ishappening in Killybegs is a sea change of sorts, with multiple drivers of change contribut-ing to multi-sector decline and the displacement of local fishing livelihoods.In previous decades, the fishing industry rendered southwest Donegal largely immune tothe economic turmoil and emigration that afflicted the rest of Ireland, particularly throughoutthe ‘tumultuous 1980s.’ It is the particular trajectory of fisheries development and decline out-lined here that has kept Killybegs, until very recently, impervious to Ireland’s long-time affairwith emigration. Unfortunately, when Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economy began to stagger in 2007the fishing industry in Killybegs was ill posed to shelter the region from the wider political-economic problems of the national and global economy. Today, as the industrial fleet departsfor fishing grounds as far away as the South Pacific, the local whitefish fleet ebbs and enduresresource decline and economic hardship. Inshore salmon fishermen remain ashore.Here we have drawn on a diversity of perspectives and experiences – from ‘mackerelmillionaires’ to a new class of global fishermen to displaced whitefish crew, fish factoryworkers and small-scale fishermen. This disparate group of stakeholders is differentiallyempowered but united by an assorted set of adaptive strategies which demand disloca-tion from place. As a collective response to changing local conditions, “in many ways,they are leaving in order to stay” (Neitschmann 1979:22). Political ecology serves as apowerful analytical tool to better understand the ways in which places, livelihoods,household economies and social relations change as fishery access changes. It can alsoserve as a powerful tool to inform policy (Walker 2006).Well-documented shortcomings in the EU CFP prompted important changes in the2012 CFP reform including greater focus on social objectives and enhancing the viabil-ity of fishery dependent communities. Key components of the reformed policy includedecentralized governance and support for small-scale fisheries, such as extending theright for member states to restrict fishing within 12 miles of their coastline until 2022.Donkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 14 of 19As described here, Ireland has been unable to fully exercise this right. “That’s how badour negotiators were at the time,” stressed one fisherman.Key social objectives of the reformed CFP include reversing the decline in employmentin the fisheries sector and promoting economic growth and jobs. These goals mark afundamental change of approach in EU resource governance with an emphasis on theviability of fishing communities and regions. These changes offer potential promisefor places like southwest Donegal, but the path from broad policy objectives to specificand sustainable outcomes needed to maintain local fishing livelihoods and community-based opportunities over the long-term, especially in rural regions, is rife with political,economic and social barriers (see for example Langdon 2008; Carothers 2011; Stoll andHolliday 2014; St. Martin 2001). Nevertheless, clearly identifying these objectives in thefisheries policy arena is a critical first step. A re-centering of fisheries policy around place-based livelihoods and fishery dependent communities and regions can help to betterdefine and address the challenges, inequities and insecurities encountered in fisheriesand fishery dependent regions today (Menzies 2007; Mansfield 2011; Carothers 2015;Carothers et al. 2010; Pinkerton and Davis 2015). Fishery systems and fishing communi-ties will be remade and reimagined in the global wake of shifting 21st century ecologicaland political-economic constraints and opportunities. Whether these shifts prompt policymeasures which protect and empower places is integral to ensuring that the rich narra-tives of people-place connections across coastal Ireland continue to include accounts oflivelihoods and life ways wrought from the surrounding sea.Endnotes1The exception here is the literature on salmon fisheries in Ireland (see for exampleTaylor 1981, 1987; Britton 2014).2County Donegal is one of the most disadvantaged regions of the Republic of Ireland(Donegal Baseline Study 2007).3See Molloy 2004:50–1 for example of how the Irish industry was allowed to collapseto appease English and Scottish jealousy; see Conaghan 1979:90–1; Tucker 1999:109for examples of oppressions in trade; see also Conaghan 2003.4Famine had a disastrous effect on Irish fisheries. Molloy (2004):51) notes the numberof Irish boats and fishermen decreased by more than 50 percent immediately followingthe Great Famine of 1845–51. Famine relief schemes focused on developing infra-structure to improve access to marine resources (e.g. piers, roads), but the effects ofstarvation often drove fishermen to sell what they could (e.g. boats/gear) to buy foodor simply left them too weak to go to sea (Molloy 2004:34; see also Bolger 2002).5The EEC-6 includes Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg.Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom joined the EU in 1972.6Several shortcomings have been identified with the principle of relative stability includ-ing quota swapping between member states and out flagging or ‘flags of convenience’.Relative stability has also been identified as an impetus for inflationary pressure onTACs because a member state that wants to increase its quota must seek an increase ofthe whole Community TAC (European Commission 2009).7The Marine Institute (2013:6) notes that in 2013 international fleets harvested morethan 1 million tonnes of fish from the waters around Ireland with an estimated value of€1.161 billion.Donkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 15 of 198The principle of relative stability intends to provide balance and a sense of certaintyand fairness to member state fleets. In reality, changing ecological circumstances, shiftingresource abundance and political comprises flex the boundaries of stable allocations. Therecent westward transboundary migration of valuable mackerel (as well as herring) stocksinto Icelandic and Faroese waters is one example. The migratory shift in fish stocks set offa four year firestorm of failed negotiations between North Atlantic coastal states resultingin total mackerel catches exceeding levels recommended by the International Council forthe Exploration of the Seas (Bates 2010). At the heart of what became known as the‘mackerel wars’ was a fundamental disagreement over entitlement of these newly mintedIcelandic and Faroese fish historically harvested by Norwegian and EU fleets (see Standal2006 for blue whiting example).9See ‘New Supertrawler Leads Our Ocean Challenge,’ The Irish Independent, October3, 1980.10Writing on Irish fisheries development, Gillmor (1987:169) notes that “initial fisheryexpansion was based on herring… Herring landings accounted for 45% of the value ofthe catch at Irish ports in 1974 but only 10% in 1984.”11See ‘Netting the Millions,’ Ireland on Sunday, June 14, 1998.12This was not the first time that the Irish pelagic fleet’s fishing practices had beencalled into question. A 1998 Irish Times article suggests that one of the reasonsunderlying Ireland’s failure to secure a favorable quota for horse mackerel (skad) inthe late 1990s was due to looming EU investigations into Irish mackerel catches. Itwas agreed during the annual negotiations over EU quota allocations (held inBrussels every December) that the investigations would be dropped if Irelandaccepted a skad deal which favored the Dutch fleet despite stocks being primarilyfound in Irish waters.13See for example: ‘Killybegs Under Scrutiny, Again!’ (Donegal Post, July 7, 2007);‘Killybegs Fishermen to Face Fraud Charges’ (Irish Mail, October 29, 2006);‘Fishery Officers Get Court Order to Inspect Killybegs Plant’ (Irish Times); ‘GardaiRaid Fishermen’s Homes Whilst Drug Smugglers Run Rampant’ (Marine TimesAugust 2007).14The population of Killybegs (1,297) continues to hover around 2006 numbers (CSO2011).15This is well above both state and county rates which remained insulated by Ireland’s‘Celtic Tiger’ economy until it faltered in 2007–2008 with the onset of the housing andbanking crises. In 2006, Ireland’s male unemployment rate was 8.8%. County Donegal’smale unemployment rate was 14.4%. County Donegal’s 2006 female unemployment ratestood at 10.8%, slightly higher than the national rate of 8.1% (CSO 2006).16See ‘Emigration Only Option for Young People in Killybegs,’ Donegal Democrat,January 18, 2007.17Sumaila et al. (2010) identify fuel subsidies as comprising 15–30% of total globalfishing subsidies.18For a more recent example which finds Ireland at odds with proposed EU measuresto conserve whitefish stocks see: Environmental groups criticise Coveney stance at EUfish talks, The Irish Times, December 15, 2014. Available at: https://www.irishtimes.-com/news/ireland/irish-news/environmental-groups-criticise-coveney-stance-at-eu-fish-talks-1.2038611. Accessed 16 December 2014.Donkersloot and Menzies Maritime Studies  (2015) 14:20 Page 16 of 1919In the Atlantic, the proportion of overfished stocks is estimated to be around 47%(Marine Institute 2013:14). Looking specifically at the 59 stocks of interest to Ireland, 24%are currently overfished and the status of another 42% is currently unknown (ibid.).20See Killybegs Online News 2009.21See McHugh Leaves €72m Estate, Mayo News, July 7, 2009. Available at: http://www.mayonews.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7063&Itemid=26.Accessed December 22, 2014.22See Supertrawler Sale a Sign of the Times in Killybegs, The Irish Times, January 20,199823Although Norwegian and Scottish mackerel markets tend to pay a higher pricedue to fat content, one of the main reasons for the lower prices paid in Killybegswas the landing of illegal fish which created a glut in the market and depressedprices. During this time, Norwegian buyers were paying roughly triple the amountof Killybegs buyers.24See The Chile Coast for Killybegs Trawlers, Killybegs Online. Available at: http://www.killybegsonline.org/Article_Details.aspx?article_id=14&tscategory_id=53. AccessedMay 2, 2009.25Britton (2014:160) describes men’s sheds as a “community-based initiative that bringsmen together from the community (from fishing and non-fishing backgrounds) to learnnew skills or apply existing skills to traditional maritime crafts such as boat building, aswell as building on the success of other community-based initiatives such as the RuralSocial Scheme.”Competing interestsThe authors declare that they have no competing interests.Authors’ contributionsRD carried out all ethnographic fieldwork and interviews for this project. RD drafted the manuscript. CM providedguidance throughout fieldwork and reviewed earlier drafts of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the finalmanuscript.Author details1Alaska Marine Conservation Council, PO Box 101145, Anchorage, Alaska 99510, USA. 2Department of Anthropology,University of British Columbia, 6303 NW Marine Drive, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1, Canada.Received: 27 January 2015 Accepted: 18 October 2015ReferencesBates, Q. 2010. Mackerel Mayhem, 4–10.. SAMUDRA Report No. 57.Blaikie, P. 2001. Social Nature and Environmental Policy in the South. In Social Nature: Theory, Practice and Politics, ed.N Castree and B Braun, 133–150. MA: Blackwell.Blaikie, P, and H Brookfield. 1987. Land degradation and society. London: Methuen.Bolger, P. 2002. The Congested Districts Board and the Co-ops in Donegal. In Donegal: History and Society, ed. WNolan, L Ronayne, and M Dunlevy, 649–674. Dublin: Geography Publications.Britton, E. 2014. Ghost Boats and Human Freight: The Social Wellbeing Impacts of the Salmon Ban on Lough Foyle’sFishing Communities. 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