A new group that brings together women from across the fishing industry in Wales and highlights their important contribution across the sector has been launched on a wave of support.
Women In Welsh Fisheries (WIWF) was initially established as a vehicle to enable women from within the fishing industry to meet (currently virtually), share experiences, and raise awareness of their work and lives within a safe and supportive forum.
The initiative is facilitated by the Wales Seafood Cluster, a Cywain-led project that encourages collaborative working among companies and individuals in the seafood industry.
North Wales Seafood Cluster Manager Nia Griffith said,
“Through our work with the Seafood Cluster, we became aware that we have a variety of women holding various jobs throughout the industry in Wales. But the fishing industry continues to be perceived as very male-dominated.
“We needed to ascertain whether there was an interest and hunger for this type of group as a place where like-minded women could have a chat and share experiences. Through consultation, it soon became apparent there was a lot of genuine interest among the cluster groups, and we are delighted that Women in Welsh Fisheries has become a reality.”
Four work streams have been identified: creating a focus group, networking support, learning from best practice (study visits and guest speakers), and promoting WIWF and its activities to new members.
The virtual launch was chaired by Welsh Food and Drink Board member and North Wales Fine Food Cluster chair Alison Lea-Wilson of Halen Môn. Included in the event were presentations by Ashley Mullenger – who is also known as The Female Fisherman on social media – and Hannah Fennell, head of the Orkney Fisheries Association. The event also included a video featuring three Welsh women who work in the industry and their thoughts and experiences.
Pembrokeshire exporter, Nerys Edwards of Syren Shellfish said,
“The perceived role of women in the fishing industry is of wives supporting their husbands when they come home, or paperwork. In our actual roles, we are lorry drivers, we’re exporters, we’re processors, we’re fishmongers, mechanics, we’re boat owners, we’re skippers.
“You know we can do whatever we like, and if we’re here to support each other, that becomes even more apparent. I think an awful lot of jobs in the fishing industry are perceived to be male jobs, but anything a male can do, women can also do.”
Being able to share experiences with “someone who understands” is important too, she said.
“I decided to become part of the group because when I started I was lorry driving and it was really lonely. There weren’t facilities, and there wasn’t anybody else like me driving across the continent with shellfish. To have somebody to chat to would have been really nice and a bit comforting on occasions.”
Fishmonger Jane Roche of Catch of the Day in Cardigan said,
“To have a group such as Women in Welsh Fisheries is really an important step forward in actually ensuring that the women that are in the industry are supported but also as the opportunity to encourage more women to get involved in the industry to actually be aware of what’s in the industry that they can get involved in.”
Carol Evans, who ran a fishing business with her husband, and also works with the Welsh Fishermen’s Association, said,
“There are so many jobs that so many of the wives of our fishermen in Wales do to make sure the businesses keep going, to make sure that fishermen are supported, to make sure that everything’s ok. They’re the unsung heroes.
“I think if we look backwards, I have an enormous amount of admiration for our ancestors and the incredibly important role that women have played contributing to our proud fishing heritage. Then as today women have a critical role, in my opinion, to play in ensuring the future of our fishing communities.”
Carol said a forum and support group for women in the Welsh fishing industry has been “needed for a long time.”
“I love that the group gives us all a voice, a place to meet socially and provides support and shares experiences, raising awareness, discussing our aspirations for the future and the generations to follow.”
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, who attended the WIWF launch, congratulated the group on its formation and said its members were role models for women fishers and those entering the sector in the future.
“The formation of WIWF is an important development and an opportunity to highlight the crucial role women play within what is often perceived as a male-dominated industry. The group will be a warm place with mutual support, which I hope will benefit many women.
“There are many opportunities for women in the seafood industry, and I’m sure Women In Welsh Fisheries will help encourage the next generation.”