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Women in seafood: A spotlight on St Helena

Dr Alice Miller, IPNLF’s Social Research & Programmes Director on the role of women in St Helena’s one-by-one tuna fisheries.

Attention is starting to focus on raising awareness around the role of women in global seafood supply chains, and their significant contribution to the industry. Making up half of the capture fisheries and post-harvest workforce, women have an important part to play throughout the sector, yet, often their stories go untold. We are reaching a new sustainability frontier in which supporting and committing to social sustainability is a necessity, and gender equity is a business imperative.

To this end, I recently travelled to Iceland to join the International Association for Women in the Seafood Industry (WSI) at the World Seafood Congress (WSC), for the Congress’s first ever panel session dedicated to women in the seafood industry. At this session, the WSI introduced a new classification to describe women in the seafood industry ‘IIU – Ignored, Invisible, Unrecognised’. Inspired by this new idea, I thought I would take the opportunity to take a look at the women involved in the one-by-one tuna fishery in St Helena, and turn the new classification on its head to ‘acknowledge, spotlight and recognise’ the wonderful women driving change in St Helena’s supply chains. 

In 2016, IPNLF partnered with the government and fisheries stakeholders, to improve policy, practises and traceability, with the support of many local St Helenians including Julie Thomas, Elizabeth Clingham and Terri Clingham. This blog shines a light on their inspiring stories working in various roles throughout the industry.

Julie has been working in the fishing industry for around twelve years and represents IPNLF’s workforce or ‘boots on the ground’ in St Helena, working as the Project Manager. In this role, she fosters the relationship between fishers, St Helena Fisheries Corporation Management (SHFC), and key stakeholders within the St Helena Government. She also supports IPNLF’s fishery and social-economic data collection programmes. Alongside her role with IPNLF, Julie is also on the board of the St Helena Fisheries Corporation (SHFC) , an IPNLF Member that is responsible for promoting, representing and protecting the collective interests of commercial fishers. She works with the Government to determine policies necessary to commercialise fishing and fish marketing in St Helena and internationally. 

“For me it is vitally important that we develop our industry and champion our cultural traditions which have been fundamental in preserving our tuna resources. I want to see St Helena’s fishers recognised for their responsible practices, their love for what they do and their desire to develop. It will be an honour for me to help shape, develop and improve our industry and I look forward to being a part of the team that creates the necessary policies and procedures that supports and protects these initiatives so that we can guarantee a sustainable future for our fishers and our fishery”. Julie Thomas, Project Manager, St Helena, IPNLF

Terri is St Helena Fisheries Corporation’s first ever female Operations Manager. In this role, she manages the cold store, ensuring product is properly sourced and managed, from the moment fresh product is received, through to local and international sales. Terri is accountable for ensuring that the cold store has competent and qualified staff as well as maintaining product quality, health, hygiene, and safe and efficient work practices in the factory.

“I am privileged to be the first female Operations Manager; I definitely worked hard to achieve this. It wasn’t easy, there were some bumps along the way but I got there in the end, with the help of the brilliant team I work with here at the Cold Store.” Terri Clingham, Operations Manager, St Helena Fisheries Corporation

Elizabeth has worked for a number of years as a Marine Science and then Conservation Officer for the St Helena Government. During these roles, she was deployed as a fisheries observer, undertook collection of scientific fisheries data and biological sampling and assisted in the development of St. Helena’s Fisheries Sector Strategy with various local and international stakeholders. Elizabeth was also part of the team that wrote St. Helena’s Marine Management Plan, which was the basis for declaring St. Helena’s Category Six Marine Protected Area. Recently, Elizabeth took up the role of General Manager at the St Helena Fisheries Corporation (SHFC), where she is responsible for the strategic, financial and business direction of the organisation which includes ensuring product management, systems and processes and other supporting systems to ensure that the organisation is ran as efficiently as possible. 

This is a pivotal time in St Helena’s fisheries sector development. Having been a part in the development of St. Helena’s MPA and the Fishing Sector Strategy, it is truly a privilege to be in a position to support this exciting new era of development of St Helena’s fishing industry. The passion I have for St. Helena is deep routed, this is my home and our children’s future.  I am excited to be a part of this monumental time and I want to do a good job.  As a female in a typically male-dominated arena I also hope to do women proud!” Elizabeth Clingham, General Manager, St Helena Fisheries Corporation

This insight into St Helena’s seafood sector exemplifies that you only have to scratch the surface to see the many ways in which women are involved in seafood supply chains. Globally, there are women like Julie, Terri and Elizabeth, who are critical to fisheries management, commercial operations, resource sustainability and much more. With our Members and partners, IPNLF are working to bring gender to the fore of conversations around seafood sustainability to ensure women are recognised and valued for their contributions to the sector and to make the ‘IIU – Ignored, Invisible, Unrecognised’ classification redundant.