Åland's cultural heritage

The historic "Ålakusten" - the stretch of coast between Åhus and Stenshuvud - was one of the most important eel fishing areas in Sweden with over a hundred eel lodges during its heyday. Today, 67 of these remain, of which about ten have an active eel fishery. There are also 21 bode ruins along the coast.

Man has been fishing for eels since at least the Bronze Age. Eel fishing is a craft, where the skills have been passed down for generations from father to son. There are no other schools or training courses to learn to fish eel. The methods of fishing have varied with gillnetting, eel chests and longlines, but are now prohibited. Today, the only approved method is hommor, a net construction in many different parts that is manufactured and specially adapted to local water depths, currents and other conditions on the seabed. Hommor cannot be bought, but must be made and repaired by the eel fisherman himself.

Along the Åla coast, a unique system of so-called "drätre" still lives. The coast is divided into smaller areas, where whoever has the right also owns the right to fish for eels within this area. The drätters have their origin from when Skåne was Danish and the Danish king distributed drätters to nobility and large estates, who in turn leased out the right to fish for eels in return for part of the catch. The system was inherited by the Swedish king and eels are still fished with this restriction today. Nowadays, a special license is also required to fish eel, and the license may not be inherited, sold or transferred. This means that those who fish eel today may be the absolute last generation to fish this valuable landscape fish for Skåne.

The now classic eel guilds originally started as leaseholders' skalas, when the eel fisherman left his lease in the form of eels to the owner in late autumn. Eel can be eaten in a variety of ways; boiled, fried, luad, straw, smoked...

Kiviks Museum works together withÅlakusten's cultural heritage associationto document and preserve the historic eel fishing, the skills, the crafts, the food and the traditions. Since 2015, the Åla coast has been a national, intangible cultural heritage according to UNESCO's definition and is included in the Swedishthe cultural heritage list. The Swedish eel fishery is according toThe Norwegian Sea and Water Authoritya small-scale, coastal, seasonal, artisanal and sustainable fishery, fully in accordance withThe UN's 17 global sustainability goals.

In September 2020, Ålakusten's cultural heritage association was taken upUNESCO's listover accredited organizations that constitute advisory bodies to UNESCO in intangible cultural heritage matters. Accreditation means increased protection for eel fishing and eel fishing culture, but also increased pressure on Swedish authorities to work actively for the preservation of a living eel fishery.

The collaboration between Kiviks Museum and Ålakusten Cultural Heritage Association is very close, and the boards have decided to appoint museum director Dafvid Hermansson as the associations' joint representative in UNESCO work and in the Nordic-Baltic Cooperation Council for Intangible Cultural Heritage. The museum has a permanent basic exhibition about eel fishing, and the associations have jointly published the booksThe coast of Åland - a hiking trail book(2019),Eat an ancient food culture(2020) andEel fishermen from the Ålakusten remember(2020). More books are in the works in our collaboration. You can buy the books in the museum shop.