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Popularity as tourism destination a threat to Scheveningen fishing industry

Attractions encroach harbour

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE – Scheveningen’s success threatens to become its undoing. In what seems to be oxymoron of sorts, the tourist industry of the historic fishing village and tourism destination is in danger of shutting down the local fishing industry, which feeds - and feeds on - the tourists. A recent study warns that the increasing number of tourist attractions and the construction of houses threaten fishing and periferal entrepreneurs around the harbour.

The report, made on behalf of the municipality of the Hague - Scheveningen is its North Sea-side suburb - suggests that city hall develop drastic new plans could save the harbour and the fishing industry. If nothing is done, these facilities will disappear within ten years.

Scheveningen itself is older than The Hague and already is mentioned in documents in 1280. The seaside village once known as Scevenigne, often was devastated by floods. The coastline was pushed back over the centuries. The fishing community simply beached its fishing boats but in the 19th century started using distant Vlaardingen (near Rotterdam) as its home port. In 1905, two harbours were dug in Scheveningen, one seaside, the other an inner harbour. In 1931 a second inner harbour was built. The North Sea harbour was enlarged in 1970.

The village’s reputation as a seaside resort has its roots in the early 19th century innovation of entrepreneur Jacob Pronk whose bathhouse attracted visitors from other places. The famed Kurhaus was built in 1885. It replaced a more austere municipal bathhouse, which dated from 1828 but had been expanded a few times.

Obstacle for German defence

The 20th century started with a significant boost to Scheveningen as a tourist destination, when in 1901 a Pier was completed. The structure however did not fit well in the defence plans of the Germans who demolished it during the WWII occupation of the Netherlands. Construction of a new Pier was begun in 1961.

The fishing community largely thrived because it could peddle its products in nearby The Hague, which as the seat of the government has had a steadily expanding market. Just like other fishing villages throughout the Netherlands, Scheveningen preserved its own ways for centuries, including a unique dialect and dress. Just as has happened in other such communities, the costumes as daily wear have faded from view, first those of the men.

Dutch playwright Herman Heyermans’ famed 1900 piece ‘Op hoop van zegen’ (Hope for Blessings) used a Scheveningen tragedy, in which the elderly woman Kniertje spoke the immortal words “... the fish is very costly,” referring to yet another tragedy at sea. The North Sea over the centuries gave Scheveningen its economic mainstay but also claimed the lives of many of its fishermen.