Written by Melissa Wood
January 28, 2013
About a year and a half ago I attended an event in Portland where Maine skipper and author Linda Greenlaw gave a presentation promoting her latest cookbook. Afterward, when she was taking questions from the audience, she got the (probably inevitable), “What’s it like to be a woman fisherman?” question.
I can’t remember her exact response, but she wasn’t a fan of the question. I don't blame her. I’m sure she’s heard it many times during a career of many accomplishments.
It's also true there are more immediate challenges when you’re out fishing — like hard work, know-how and an ability to get along well with others in close quarters. But fishing is still very much a male-dominated industry and so it’s hard to believe there are no issues with being a woman in it.
That’s why I think it’ll be interesting to hear what the panelists will have to say in a discussion about Women in Fisheries. The event, which will be hosted by the Sitka Maritime Historical Society on Feb. 7 at 6 p.m., is free to the public.
“As the new (and first female) director of SMHS, I am especially excited to provide a platform for a few of our women fishermen to share their stories,” wrote Ashia Lane, executive director of Sitka Maritime Heritage Society, in an email about the event.
“Our discussion panel will allow the panelists to talk about their personal experiences in the fisheries, with emphasis on the ‘female’ part. We hope to guide the conversation towards addressing specific challenges and accomplishments that are uniquely female in a male-dominated field.”
The crew of panelists have impressive at-sea resumes (information provided by Lane):
You can also meet a member of the newest generation of women in fisheries in the pages of National Fisherman's March issue. Writer Sierra Golden tells the story of 29-year-old Hollis Jennings’ journey from being a VW mechanic in Kentucky to skipper of the 57-foot Natalie Gail from which she seines for salmon in Southeast.
Like Greenlaw, Jennings doesn’t spend a lot of time focusing on her minority status as a woman skipper in Southeast, but her pragmatic attitude of learning her way through problems and paying attention to advice from fleet elders seems like one we can all take something away from.
Jennings talks about being part of an all-woman deck crew, which she worked on before getting her own boat. She said she was nervous about it at first, but the crew turned out to the best team she has ever worked with:
“You don’t need guys when you have hydraulics,” she said.
Check out our calendar listing for more information about SMHS’ Women in the Fisheries event.
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