Case regions

The PERICLES view of preserving and utilizing maritime and coastal cultural heritage is built upon three pillars of scientific concepts:

1. Space, Place, and Identity;
2. Risk, Resilience, and Adaption; and
3. Deliberative and Participatory Governance. 

Space, Place, and Identity

PERICLES explores the different ways that spaces become places and influence identities.  We also focus on tangible cultural heritage, which has value both for what it is and for what it alludes to; by being visible, it draws attention to the intangible in terms of the cultures, societies and circumstances that shaped landscape use and exploitation. Both tangible and intangible cultural heritage are important for creating a sense of individual and societal identity.

Risk, Resilience, and Adaptation

Coastal areas experience intense and sustained pressures from a diverse range of social and environmental sources, all of which have the potential to become risks to the preservation and utilisation of cultural heritage. Our coasts host many of the EU’s major centres of commerce and are subject to the attendant pressures that emanate from these cities (e.g. urban sprawl and rapid development).

Due to globalisation and resulting MacDonaldisation of cities, many urban centres are at risk of losing their inherent uniqueness as waterfronts and high streets are increasingly designed to resemble each other and are disembedded from their coastal heritage.

Risk, resilience and adaptation challenges vary according to specific threats and contexts and therefore require different solutions. This is explored in PERICLES in demos that include, for example, adaption in the face of climate change challenges (Malta and Wadden Sea), the challenges associated with growing demands onmaritime and coastal resources though Blue Growth (Scotland and Denmark) and challenges to traditional ways of life (Estonia, Malta, Aegean).

Deliberative and Participatory Governance

Participation is essential in governing both cultural heritage and landscapes to guarantee the integration of diverse knowledge, values and perspectives, ensure recognition of all salient risks, avoid or reduce conflict and find synergies between different interests, and broadly improve the quality of decisions. Governance is about the rules of collective decision-making. Governance and developments in participation can be linked to the notion of ‘deliberative democracy’ and empowered participatory governance.  PERICLES will provide a comprehensive, empowered participatory governance framework for sustainable management and conservation of European coastal and maritime cultural landscapes, to assess and mitigate risks and integrate knowledge across local, spatial, environmental, social and economic aspects of CH.

                                             The below figure shows the location of our case regions.


Interactive heritage maps

PERICLES is working on developing an interactive website where anyone will be able to view multimedia maps of maritime and coastal cultural heritage, from lighthouses to wrecks and from stories to people’s cultural practices, in image, audio, video and text formats, and their links to the natural environment.

The website will compile information from many existing sources but also anyone will also be able to upload descriptions, pictures, sound and film of any form of cultural heritage that you value in your area. The mapping website is expected to launch in the spring of 2020.

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    The Ria de Aveiro coastal region integrates 11 municipalities and is characterized by the presence of an extensive lagoon occupying about 11,000 ha. The lagoon is one of the largest, most biologically significant coastal wetlands in Portugal (DGOTDU, 2004), and is classified under Natura 2000. The lagoon offers a unique landscape and many traditionally economic important activities, such as fishing, salt production, seaweed gathering, aquaculture and agriculture, as well as newer economic opportunities such as coastal and marine sport and tourism (CCDR-C, 2015).

    The region’s population has a long tradition linked to the sea and to the salt marsh lagoon, with fishing and salt production activities having always been important for the economic development of the region. The fishing communities in the region used to be strongly involved in cod fishing. The region was also the most important in Portugal in terms of preparing and processing cod, strongly related to the enormous salt production in the lagoon. These traditional activities suffered a steep decline over the last decades with a consequent disappearance of natural (in the case of saltpans), social and cultural values associated with them. Some of these activities are now returning, with the emergence of new entrepreneurship initiatives, focusing on traditional activities for tourist purposes. Several of these activities still face threats, while new initiatives present risks/threats to cultural, natural and ethnographic/historic heritage.

    By developing a deeper understanding of the region maritime and coastal cultural heritage in this case region, we will explore how opportunities supported in cultural heritage-tourism and gastro-tourism can promote traditional activities adapted to new demand.

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    Brittany is the premier maritime region in France, with 2,730 km of coasts along the English Channel, the Celtic Sea and the Bay of Biscay, and its second most important touristic region. Evidence of prehistorical human settlements along the coast have been found and standing stones constitute major heritage from that period; megaliths are also found below sea level, which was lower in earlier times.

    Following a long tradition in coastal and maritime fishing, Brittany is still today the most important region for fishing, as well as shellfish culture, in France. This maritime tradition extends to both the merchant navy and the navy, Brittany being home to major military harbours. Traditional sailing boats are valued in many places and sailing, as a leisure activity, is a major component of the Brittany economy. Within Breton culture and its Celtic tradition, maritime tangible and intangible heritage is extensive today and a key asset in the attractiveness of Brittany’s tourism sector. Along the coast many signs of past activity can be found and much effort is devoted to preserving these signs as the coast continues to be under strong pressure for further development and urbanisation. Erosion and rising sea level threaten this coastal heritage. As the Breton language lies for a large part in an oral tradition that has been suppressed in the first half of the 20th century, the recollection of intangible CH has been, and still is, a challenge. Many of the maritime traditions of Brittany are in museums, festivals and other activities in which relevant actors and the public are engaged.

    Our focus within this case region will be to support the Marine Regional park in inventory and promote cultural heritage for marine traditional activities (shellfish farming, traditional sailing boats, etc.). Within their landscape observatory develop underwater landscape extension. Seaweed harvesting as heritage to support new ways to develop seaweed sector.

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    Denmark has a rich maritime and seafaring history with the islands of southern Denmark supporting its position as the gatekeeper of the Baltic. Such islands, like much of rural Denmark, are faced with demographic challenges, limited infrastructure and limited employment opportunities. The islands also face increased pressures from tourism.

    Contemporary Denmark continues to have links to shipping and transport, but also looks to uncover its maritime heritage as a means for place-making and tourism. Moreover, many small coastal ports and communities throughout Denmark, including the Limfjord area in the north, developed as trading hubs and then transitioned into fishing communities. Fishing communities in Denmark have witnessed many changes, but select communities have worked to preserve this way of life and the supporting industries (e.g., wooden boatbuilding craft) that allow fishing fleets to land in their local villages. Much of the region is rural, and is faced with demographic challenges in terms of a decreasing and aging population.

    In this case region, we will explore how local communities and peoples can adapt to contemporary conditions using their cultural heritage to help tackle the challenges they face (e.g., strengthening societal awareness of maritime heritage for tourism and community development, such as through citizen arts/science initiatives); while also investigating how some initiatives such as blue growth development (renewable energy; aquaculture; water sports) may also generate risks to cultural heritage and seascapes. We will consider policy challenges such as how Denmark institutes marine spatial planning and regional development. We will also investigate how local, cultural knowledge (e.g., traditional boat building; maritime navigation) can provide a platform for community revitalisation, strengthened community identity, as well as tourism development.

    Activities in this case region will include the large-scale citizen science cultural heritage mapping work common to all studies in PERICLES, a demo focused on integrating cultural heritage into marine and coastal spatial planning and three targeted local pilots and demos that deal with key threats and opportunities in relation to maritime and coastal cultural heritage.

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    The focus in this case region is to understand, preserve and harness cultural heritage in the Maltese archipelago. The archipelago, of which the three largest islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino) are inhabited, is situated in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea; its geographical position has given Malta strategic importance throughout history. Malta is a very popular tourist destination, and the country depends heavily on its tourism industry in terms of GDP. In 2015, 1.6 million tourists visited Malta, which was three times the number of residents. Malta also has a rich natural heritage, attracting tourists such as divers, bird watchers, seafood lovers and recreational fishermen. Both Gozo and Comino are known for some of the Mediterranean's best dive sites. Although the country has very few resident birds, it is strategically located for birds migrating between European breeding and African wintering grounds.

    Like on many islands, there is concern about direct and indirect impacts of climate change, such as changes in sea level and temperature, more variability and unpredictability in rainfall patterns and high(er) humidity and air temperature, especially in summer. Climate change is however not only associated with threats (and opportunities) for tourism; Malta also anticipates challenges for the agriculture and fishery sectors, and foresees problems with water resources and its population's health. PERICLES will explore the role that cultural heritage plays in balancing Malta’s multifaceted character as described above, how Malta can deal with the impact of climate change on cultural heritage and the role that cultural heritage can play in climate change adaptation.

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    North-East Aegean Sea

    The Aegean Sea with its extensive coastline and its archipelago of over 6000 islands, large and small, is characterized by a remarkable environmental and cultural variability, which has been shaped by its complex geological and long cultural history.

    This case study will focus on one aspect of cultural heritage: the exploitation of aquatic resources. There are certain areas that developed very rich and long-lived fishing traditions which shaped the identity and worldviews of coastal people, as well as complex economies that were based on the exploitation of marine resources, their processing and their participation in regional and distant markets. The ecological and biological background of these developments is little explored.

    The proposed case region focuses on the North-east Aegean Sea, between Chalkidiki Peninsula and a line defined by the estuary of Evros River and Samothrace island (which borders Turkey). Fishing, and its associated CH in this area is seriously threatened by changes imposed by global environmental change, but also by human activities on a local and supra-regional level: pollution, touristic development of the coasts and overfishing, as well as changes in the hydrologic balance between fresh water discharge and salt water. In this case region we will focus on developing an in-depth historical understanding of cultural heritage to provide administrators, the business sector and local communities with knowledge and tools to pursue a sustainable development in this coastal and marine area.

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    The case region, Pärnu Bay region and islands in the Gulf of Riga, is an important summer holiday destination for Estonians as well as the country´s main coastal fisheries. For example, the catch of approximately14,030 tonnes accounted for over 84% of the country´s coastal fishing catch. However, the area suffers from poor infrastructure as well as poor water quality and sanitation, while the fishing sector lacks equipment for primary processing. Improvements in these areas are prerequisites for developing a local processing industry as well as pursuing a strategy for diversification, in particular tourism. Almost the entire region is covered by Natura 2000, which also impacts development.

    The Pärnu Bay region and islands in the Gulf of Riga, including islands such as Kihnu and Ruhnu, offer a meaningful case study of diminishing natural resources, a marine-based local economy and locals’ relationship with new forms of tourism, such as heritage tourism and yachting. Kihnu residents grapple with the UNESCO designation and increasing reliance on tourism and want to drive their own development. They remain critical of those from outside looking to extract heritage resources without offering ideas and initiatives that feed back into the island.

    In this case region, we will develop participatory process aimed at incorporating cultural heritage into ongoing MSP efforts in the case study area and investigate ways to ensure cultural heritage is protected. We also will include work on viable means to continue development and employment for locals which includes and protects aspects of their unique culture. We will produce 3D images of four wreck sites for promoting the European Coastal Path in a new, innovative way.

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    This large-scale case region seeks to understand, preserve and harness cultural heritage across the Atlantic seaboard and inner seas of the west coasts of Scotland and the Republic of Ireland and the coast of Northern Ireland. There are strong ties between the Irish and Scottish coasts in terms of Gaelic and Irish language, history and culture, emigration and diaspora, tangible and intangible Celtic Christian and pre-Christian religious heritage, smallholder-crofting culture, inshore fisheries and industrial maritime heritage. Much of the region is rural, and is faced with demographic challenges in terms of a decreasing and aging population. This generates a vicious cycle of a declining base for services and economic activity, particularly in combination with declining central government budgets under austerity policies.

    PERICLES will explore how traditional sectors such as crofting and fisheries can adapt, how opportunities for blue growth based on cultural heritage, such as through cultural heritage-tourism, gastronomy and creative industries can help to tackle these challenges, and how blue growth developments such as marine renewable energy and aquaculture may generate risks to cultural heritage but also potentially generate new cultural heritage. We will consider common policy challenges in terms of regional policy, such as the proposed Scottish Islands Bill and cross-boundary marine and coastal planning as well as post-Brexit fisheries policy, that are likely to have significant implications for cultural heritage. We will also investigate how urban industrial cultural heritage (shipbuilding) can provide a platform for social regeneration.

    Activities in this case region will include the large-scale citizen science cultural heritage mapping work common to all case studies, a region wide demo focused on integrating cultural heritage into marine and coastal spatial planning and three targeted local demos that deal with key threats and opportunities in relation to cultural heritage.

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    The Wadden Sea area is a vast coastal wetland area on the North Sea coast of major international importance, comprising tidal flats, islands, salt marshes and other habitats. It covers almost 10,000 square kilometres in extent and it is one of the largest wetlands in the world. The area stretches over 450 km along the North Sea coast of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, which are cooperating since 1978 to protect the Wadden Sea as an ecological entity, employing as the guiding principle “to achieve, as far as possible, a natural and sustainable ecosystem in which natural processes proceed in an undisturbed way”.

    The Wadden Sea’s specific national and international interest is expressed in its status as World Heritage since 2009, and its designation as national park, and its nature reserves on various islands, hosting many migratory birds, therefore attractive to bird watchers and other nature lovers. The Wadden Islands are very much “manmade”: they are inhabited for thousands of years, salt marshes were turned into pastures and farmland, and dikes were built to protect people, their livestock and belongings. This latter is still of key concern, especially with regard to climate change. Cultural heritage values in the area range from archaeological digs, traditional customs and sites such as the horse-driven lifeboat on the island of Ameland, the commander houses of whale hunting captains, and the famous Willem Barentsz school for navigation, to events such as Texel Culinair highlighting the culinary past and present of the island. Coastal communities depend on fishing and (gastro-) tourism for their livelihoods. Another economic sector with interests in the Wadden Sea is the gas and oil industry, but plans to drill for natural gas are subject of fierce debates for many years.

    To facilitate information sharing and learning, PERICLES will develop spaces for stakeholder dialogue and participatory conversations that will allow for examine the importance of cultural heritage for the Wadden Sea, focussing on the complexities of coastal protection, preserving and developing unique natural features and rich cultural heritage, as well as exploring the strengths and challenges of collaboration between institutions in an international context in which socio-cultural differences go beyond mere language barriers.


This project has received funding from the European Commission Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 770504