Business Succession in the Fishing and Agricultural Communities

April 7, 2020

James M Flaherty Research Scholarship 2019/20 Visit Report

Name:                                 Dr Matthew Pauley
Home Institution:         University of Prince Edward Island
Visited Institution:       Dublin City University – Dr Eric Clinton
Date of Visit:                    November 11th, 2019 – December 16th, 2019

Title of Research:         Business Succession in the Fishing and Agricultural Communities
Field of study:                Entrepreneurship

Visit Details:

The primary focus of this research was to explore the lives of the lobster fisherman in Ireland, with a special consideration on the state of the inshore fisheries and business succession. 25 participants represent all four provinces (Connaught; Ulster; Leinster and Munster) with narratives typically lasting 30 to 45 minutes. Interviews took place in over 15 different counties with 4,017 kilometers driven. Because of the sensitive nature in data collection and anonymity of participants, there will be no discussion of names or identifiable features of participants. The ages of participants range from 18 to 72 years and dominated by males. Some fishermen advised visiting Portree, Scotland to chat with fellow Irishmen fishing in the UK to understand the differences between operating within the UK and EU fisheries. Nearly all inshore fishermen and interested parties have a family tie to fishing (often a father and/or grandfather).

This study first began in Dublin on November 11th with a visit to the host university: Dublin City University. Dr. Eric Clinton was gracious to connect me with Ellen Drumm, the General Manager of the National Centre for Family Business (NCFB) at DCU. We shared a dialogue on the current state of family business in Ireland, including advancing the NCFB in raising awareness and support for family business owner entrepreneurs. I was also fortunate to meet colleagues Keeva Farrelly a research assistant in family firms (NCFB) and Farhad Ahmed a postdoctoral research fellow (NCFB). The three of us have had multiple discussions on family business; entrepreneurship; pedagogy and research production. It was interesting to discuss future collaboration possibilities.


Interviewing with a local father and son pot fishing crew about the state of lobster fisheries and future outlook of business

After spending the first four days in Dublin at DCU the rest of the study took place across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Before conducting this study, I contacted some locals to circulate my details and research initiatives. Most participants did not know of this study and required travelling around the country from village to village. My lack of understanding on the local fisherman was clear when first starting on the south-east coast with a clipboard in-hand. The first interview started with a cold tension, because I was holding a clipboard. The fisherman associated the clipboard with government regulation, stress and later in the study bouts of harassment from fishing authorities. After explaining who I am and the purpose of the study funded by a James M Flaherty Research Scholarship, the interview reversed and I embraced a warm reception. Upon completion of the first narrative the fisherman’s advice was to toss the clipboard. When I retreated to my vehicle, that clipboard did not see the light of day again.

The journey continued up the eastern seaboard, stopping every so often at the tiny slabs of concrete in the water passing as a pier. It is not until completing the interviews I realized inshore pot fisherman (vessels under 10 meters fishing species of crustaceans) fish out of tiny ports as it allows them to cover more water. Likewise, it is these fishermen that cry of overfishing within the industry and a sheer lack of regulation. This is only one theme from a wealth of rich data that will take months to unpack and analyze. For instance, on the surface-level, a good portion of the inshore fisherman interviewed demand regulation and pot limits (understanding the value it a sustainable fishery) yet admit to putting out more pots or extending their catching limits. Factors such as commoditization and competition lend insight into this cannibalistic behaviour.

Water filtration system at Dingle Ocean World, where they support the lobster V-notching program and lobster hatchery

It was clear after the first week of interviews there was more than family succession in the inshore fisherman’s narrative. The piers and fishing docks highlight an aging industry both in terms of people and with Northern Ireland, boats and technology. I expanded the sample demographic to include government agencies, non-government agencies and people with specialist knowledge on the inshore fisheries. Several organizations were very helpful in aiding this research, including: Dingle Ocean World, Exploris Aquarium Visitors Center & Seal Sanctuary, Down County Museum, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, National Inshore Fisheries Forum (NIFF), Regional Inshore Fisheries Forums (RIFF), and others who wish to remain anonymous. These groups were both impressed with the support of the research from the James M Flaherty scholarships and interest from a Canadian scholar interested in their communities. The narratives suggest a hope for sustainable fisheries but lack a unifying or clarifying voice and agenda.

Pot fisherman in County Kerry repairing his boat during the winter fishing season

The James M Flaherty scholarship has provided a life-changing opportunity, which I hope with this research changes the lives and communities of Ireland that took me in with a warming embrace. I have established several great connections with community members, agencies and colleagues at Dublin City University and the Institute of Technology Tralee. I hope to publish this research in international journals, and for the local Irish communities such as the Kerry News. In the meantime, the aim is to present these findings at the Academy of Management or other suitable international outlets. This has been a positive experience that will be shared with my local community, University of Prince Edward Island and next year at the Atlantic Schools of Business conference. Given the depth of data collected, there is also the opportunity to build on this research by replicating the study within the Prince Edward Island fishing community.

Today’s catch, a basket of European Lobster (Homarus Vulgaris)

Turn of the century pot fishing boat typically used in Ireland



Matthew Pauley PhD MBA AFHEA
Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship
Director of the Hostetter Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship
Leader – Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Prince Edward Island