A new group, Women in Welsh Fisheries (WIWF), has been established by the Wales Seafood Cluster to enable women in the industry to meet, share experiences, and raise awareness of their work. Rachael Harper spoke to North Wales Seafood Cluster manager Nia Griffith (pictured above) to find out more…
What is Women in Welsh Fisheries?
Women in Welsh Fisheries has been established in response to a call from females within the industry for a forum to meet, share experiences and support each other in what is often perceived to be a male-dominated industry.
In our first meeting, one of the members said that the industry could be quite a lonely place for a woman, and to have this forum to share experiences and frustrations means a lot to them, and reinforces the message that there are other women out there who feel the same.
How did the idea for the group come about?
Within our work as the Welsh Seafood Cluster, we were aware of a lot of women who worked within the industry in different roles, but felt that they weren’t necessarily given the recognition they deserve. So we consulted with our members to assess whether there was a need for a group such as this, and it became apparent that there was huge interest.
What will WIWF do?
We’re a new group and still developing our vision, but we currently meet over Zoom on a monthly basis, as a catch-up and to check in with each other. It’s as much a support network as anything else, and as Covid restrictions are lifted, we will be looking to meet physically in different locations around Wales and beyond.
The group is very keen to become a vehicle to raise awareness of issues within the industry, such as the challenges and succession of the fishing fleet. It will also highlight opportunities that are available for women, from becoming fisherwomen to roles such as fishmongering, sales, marketing, marine research, distribution and so on. Essentially the message is: whatever role a man can undertake within the industry, so can a woman.
Why do you think the industry is still perceived as male-dominated?
The term ‘fisherman’ in itself immediately makes you think of a man. Although it’s true that the majority of fishers in Wales are men, we’re keen to celebrate that there are also women who take on this role.
Behind each fisherman, there is a support network at home, in the form of family, wives and daughters, etc, who support the business and undertake marketing, admin and distribution roles. They are behind the scenes and not always as visible as the fishermen, but are an important cog in the wheel as far as the day-to-day operations of the businesses are concerned. We want to celebrate all of the women and the important role they play in the industry in Wales.
What else can the industry do to be more inclusive to women?
During our meeting, one of our guest speakers, Ashley Mullenger, the ‘Female Fisherman’, mentioned the challenges that she faces on the boat, from ill-fitting lifejackets to the lack of onboard facilities. If we could look further into these type of challenges, small adaptations may be all that’s needed to make things easier for women onboard a vessel.
One of our members welcomed the introduction of this group as she has been driving a lorry across the Continent to deliver seafood, but felt quite lonely as a woman. The facilities aren’t always suitable for women’s requirements, and she welcomed this group as a way of getting to know other women in a similar position.
There is definitely a need to redefine the role of women within the industry. The message we aim to reinforce is that women are able to (and do) work in any area within the sector, and we need to celebrate this and encourage more women to consider it as a career.
The WIWF has just had its virtual launch. What’s coming up next for the group?
We are currently working on developing a suite of case studies in the form of a film. We will be travelling across Wales to ensure we represent a cross-section of roles that women undertake within the industry, whether directly or indirectly, and to celebrate them.
How can people join WIWF?
If women are involved directly or indirectly within the seafood industry in Wales, they are more than welcome to join. We are currently meeting virtually on a monthly basis, with an informal catch-up to socialise and discuss potential areas that we would like to develop using the group as a vehicle.
Anyone interested in joining the group can email: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here. Main photo: johnscottblackwell.co.uk.