Sea For Yourself Page

Sea For Yourself

A group of friends including Conor Keenan, Maria Hobitaki from Greece and Connor's wife Raquel from Portugal were meeting one evening and discussing their seafood dinner.

Eating seafood locally

They mentioned how little seafood was eaten locally and the difference in the attitudes towards seafood in Greece and Portugal. Conor worked as an EVS (European Voluntary Service) facilitator in Northern Ireland, and met Maria and Raquel through the service.

They were aware that the European Commission Youth in Action funding programme was coming to a close and thought it would be a good opportunity to try and organize their own Youth Initiative project. Maria and Conor met to plan out an application and both agreed that seafood and encouraging young people to eat more would be a great project topic.

They recruited Steve Sheehy, a filmmaker from County Kildare as they knew from the beginning that a short film would be the perfect way to promote the project, and the cause after the project had concluded. That formed the main project team and they set about preparing the project with the help of a number of different individuals involved in youth work, film, and the seafood industry itself. 


The project was funded through the Youth Initiatives element of the Youth in Action programme. This European programme is administered in the UK by the British Council and they provided support before, during and after application.

The project became known as ‘ Sea for Yourself ’ and it involved taking a number of youth groups through a couple of weekend residentials to try and immerse them in the harbour environment, the fishing community and those who support it.

After the project design had been done, our job was to recruit youth groups to participate. We aimed for a good mix of boys and girls, backgrounds rural and urban, as well as geographic location.

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The groups were brought together for a bonding day at the Belfast Activity Centre in Barnett’s Demesne. We also did some film shooting and got some of the most hilarious shots of the whole project, when the young people got their hands on some fish, some for the very first time! As the groups left, all were given a particular part of the fishing industry to research, so that they would be better prepared for the weekend of activities.

Our first stop was the Harbour in Kilkeel where we got up close and personal with a trawler. Skipper William Graham met us there to show us round a trawler that searches for prawns, the lifeblood of the Kilkeel fleet. We also got to meet some of the crew who originally come from North Africa.

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"Seeing the young people cook and enjoy their own fish was the most rewarding activity."

After the trawler, Roy Teggarty met us at the RNLI station and explained what role the Lifeboat station plays in the role of the harbour, and how members of all different industries, not just fishermen, come together to keep those at sea safe. We also got to tour one of the most impressive pieces of architecture, the Ship Lift, which lifts the boats out of the water so they can be painted and repaired.

The Saturday morning started with another visit to a vessel to see how a mussel dredger, and the young people were amazed at how many different skills a fisherman must have. Terry Cunningham met us to show us his skills as a netmender, repairing old nets and making new ones.

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The crux of the project was removing the fear factor around fish, and the mystery that surrounds it for young people. We headed to the Seafood Cookery School located right at the harbour in the nautilus Centre. There we were met by Seafood specialist chef Wayne Carville. Wayne organised a brilliant day of cooking and tasting which proved to be a revelation for the group. Here the young people cooked and ate their own meal. There were a few mishaps and a few turned faces, but largely everyone was amazed by how easy fish is to cook, and how tasty it is.