This study focuses on the cultural heritage of artisan coastal fishing in the west of Ireland in the 19th century. The town and port of Dingle, County Kerry, offers an important case study on the progress of local development and changing British policies. While there was clearly an abundance of fish, the poverty and the lack of capital for improvements in ports, vessels, gear, education, and transportation, left the fishing industry underdeveloped until well after the 1890s. In addition, a growing rift developed between the traditional farmer-fishermen and the new middle-class capitalist companies. After several royal commissions examined the fishing industry, the leading ichthyologists of the day concluded that an abundance of fish could be taken without fear of overfishing. The utilitarian economic principle became dominant, changing the previous non-interventionist policies. In the end, there was little concern for sustainability. The mismanagement of commercial fishing in the west of Ireland stemmed from a series of factors, including the increasing need for protein in Britain, technological developments that allowed greater fish catch, and the Conservative government’s political policy of ‘constructive unionism’ that attempted to develop the Irish economy to preserve the kingdom.
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