women in aquaculture

“There are never enough women in aquaculture”

As we mark International Women’s Day, SeaWestNews looks at 10 women effecting positive change in Canada’s aquaculture and fisheries industries

By Samantha McLeod

As we mark International Women’s Day this year, a new survey from Atlantic Canada states the cultural expectation of women to be primary caregivers has a profound effect on women’s ability to participate in the agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries industries.

The top three barriers to women’s participation identified by survey respondents were pregnancy, gender bias and managing ‘traditionally female’ tasks such as childcare and housework.

Additionally, interview participants identified that childcare was the biggest barrier they had faced in their own careers in these industries.

The survey by Prince Edward Island government agencies recommends encouraging opportunities for networking and mentorship for women; funding projects specifically for women and developing public policies for gender, diversity, and inclusion in the agriculture, aquaculture, and fisheries industries in the province.

“Fishing, aquaculture, and related industries make up the livelihood for as much as ten to twelve per cent of the world’s population. And half of these people are women,” states the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Here are 10 women effecting positive change in Canada’s aquaculture and fisheries industries;

women's day

Bernadette Jordan – Jordan is the first female Nova Scotia MP ever appointed to a federal cabinet. She is now Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard leading the government’s work to protect and promote Canada’s three oceans and waterways, to sustain and rebuild the fisheries, while providing important economic opportunities to Canadians and coastal communities. Among Jordan’s most critical mandates, is to come up with a plan by 2025 that will dictate the future of B.C.’s aquaculture industry.

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Lana Popham – Popham has been Minister of Agriculture for B.C. since 2017. While in the opposition benches she had served predominately as the critic for the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. Popham oversaw the Broughton Archipelago decision, that recognizes traditional First Nations rights and paves the way for future expansion of B.C.’s sustainable salmon farming industry. “Our government is committed to working closely and building an environmentally and economically sustainable aquaculture industry in British Columbia,” she told the Aquaculture Canada Conference last year.

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Jennifer Woodland –  Jennifer Woodland is the CEO & Aquaculture Development Manager Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood Limited Partnership, a First Nation owned seafood enterprise that operates on Vancouver Island. A native Newfoundlander, Woodland grew up in the commercial fishery and has a passion for seafood. The cod crisis in the early 90’s fueled her passion for aquaculture as a means of feeding the world with reduced pressure on wild stocks. With over two decades’ experience in aquaculture assisting companies on both coasts of Canada to improve their environmental performance, regulatory compliance, achieve third party environmental, Woodland is the new chair of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA).

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Dr. Diane Morrison – “There are never enough women in aquaculture, in my opinion. This still is a very male-dominated industry, but as a woman I couldn’t have asked for a better career for someone who is into science, technology and environmental issues,” Dr. Morrison told SeaWestNews, when she became managing director of Mowi Canada West. The veteran fish health expert is responsible for over 600 employees mostly living on Vancouver Island working for one British Columbia’s largest food producers raising 45,000 tonnes of sustainable Atlantic salmon each year.

Marilyn Hutchinson – As director of Indigenous & Community Relations for Grieg Seafood BC Ltd. Hutchinson deals with improving the economic future of First Nations salmon farming communities. Hutchinson, who joined Grieg in April 2011, has been sharing information on the company’s farming activities among local residents, local government officials and business organisations, drawing up negotiated compensation agreements, identifying employment opportunities for First Nations communities and sponsoring community events and indigenous sports teams.

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Joanne Liutkus – Originally from Newfoundland, is the Research and Development Coordinator at the BC Salmon Farmer’s Association in Campbell River. Previously, Liutkus worked in Ottawa, with the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance – coordinating the AgriMarketing program, and with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as Science Advisor coordinating the Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program. Liutkus pushes the Canadian aquaculture community to set the global standard for partnering with local communities and First Nations to sustainably rebuild struggling rural communities.

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Heather Clarke – A mother of two, Clarke is the co-founder of Poseidon Ocean Systems, global leaders in aquaculture solutions and technology. Her Campbell River-based business today includes many of the world’s aquaculture giants, whose farms contend with high currents, strong winds and powerful storms in the open ocean. Clarke, whose background is in corporate investment management, oversees Poseidon’s logistics, finances and strategy. “If you build it they will come,” is her advice to businesses looking to start in the aquaculture industry.

Susan Farquharson – Farquharson is the Executive Director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farmers Association. She is a strong regional voice for Atlantic Canada’s salmon farming sector that generates more than 4000 jobs and over $400 million in employment income contributing over $1 billion to the Canadian GDP. In a recent op-ed, Farquharson called on Nova Scotians and their elected officials to stand up to anti-salmon farming sentiments that are based on the politics of fear rather than the realities of science.

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Jenny Weitzman – With a B.SC. in Marine Biology and Oceanography and a Master of Marine Management from Dalhousie University, Weitzman is a firm advocate for science communication and community outreach and engagement. “The single greatest message I want to spread is that there is a way that aquaculture can be both economically secure, societally endorsed, and environmentally responsible. I want to change the conversation so that people are not questioning whether we should, but are focused on how we should,” she told SeaWestNews after being named as member of the Council of Emerging Leaders in Aquaculture.

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Michelle Franze – After graduating with a BSc. in Marine Biology and Business, Franze began her professional journey in aquaculture working in a hatchery for an Indigenous owned aquaculture company that specializes in the production of Japanese Scallops.She is now the manager of Communications, Partnerships and Community for the B.C Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA). “I don’t think a lot of young people know about the career opportunities that the industry can provide for them.  I have been showing people of my age group that there are a lot of opportunities for us in aquaculture…so, give me a call, send me an email, and I am on social media,” Franze tells SeaWestNews.

Main Image shows some of the 90 attendees at the second Mowi Women in Aquaculture event held September 2019 at the Oyster Bay Resort on Vancouver Island