Women are making waves in the Welsh fishing community
It’s great to see the recent creation of Women in Welsh Fisheries (WIWF), a group set up to help women in what is still largely recognised as a male-dominated industry, enabling them to share stories and spread the word about their work, with the aim of raising awareness and celebrating the women within the industry, highlighting the roles they play and encouraging others to do the same. Established by the Wales Seafood Cluster, a Cywain-led project, WIWF enables fisherwomen to deal with the difficulties they experience and to encourage and support one another, and make positive long-term changes for not only fisherwomen, but also the women who are working tirelessly behind the scenes, taking care of families and covering the marketing, admin and distribution roles.
Pembrokeshire exporter, Nerys Edwards became a member of the group because of her experiences as a lorry driver when she first joined the industry. Nerys described this time as lonely due to a lack of companionship, as there wasn’t anyone else like her within the fishing circuit. The role of women in fishing is under-appreciated, often perceived as less important than that of men. Nerys stressed this issue, stating that “...we’re lorry drivers, we’re exporters, we’re processors, we’re fishmongers, we’re mechanics, we’re boat owners, we’re skippers."
Encouraging women across Wales to reach out to the group is Cardigan-based fishmonger Jane Roche of Catch of the Day. After experiencing a difficult couple of years due to the pandemic, having only opened her quayside fishmongers in 2019 with her husband, Jane is stressing the importance of WIWF as now is an even more crucial time for women in the fishing industry to come together. No matter what the role of the individual, Jane highlighted the benefits of the group, stating that “It is wonderful to have like-minded people to support you, and to have a chat with over a glass of wine in a safe environment where you can have a giggle and you won’t be judged.” She is also promoting the need for more women in the industry and supports WIWF’s aim to become a proactive organisation that raises awareness of career opportunities. Recognising the talent and willingness in women fishers will make fishing a more sustainable industry, and one that strives for equality in a safe space. The more women involved within the trade, the better the vision for the future of the fishing industry, and the more inclusive this work environment presents itself, the more women will apply for roles in this sector.
Carol Evans of the Welsh Fishermen’s Association, who also started up a fishing business with her husband further addressed the critical role women play within the trade. She 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, and to make sure that everything’s ok. They’re the unsung heroes.” It is evident that the industry wouldn’t function as well without these women who work tirelessly both in the background and at the forefront. As a member of the group, Carol admires the social aspect of WIWF that offers the opportunities for women to get together and discuss the way forward for the generations to come.
Also backing the group is Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffths, who stated that “The group will be a warm place with mutual support.” WIWF’s story is being heard across the nation through news features and online magazines, raising significant awareness of the roles of women within the fishing industry. Evidently, fisheries are not the only traditionally male perceived sector where positive changes are afoot. Similar to the fishing industry, the whisky trade is also perceived to be run by men. But Welsh brands such as Penderyn Distillery are an indication of change. Penderyn’s two master distillers are Laura Davies and Aista Jukneviciute, two women who have helped built up the brand to an internationally renowned whisky distiller.
Other Welsh businesses that are run by women include Bluestone, Tomos Watkin and Boss Brewing, all highly praised and recognised brands. Organisations like WIWF are examples of a positive change happening, where women are working against discrimination, supporting each other and seizing more opportunities.