by Paula MacKinnon, Policy/Communications with PEI Aquaculture Alliance
A recent economic impact assessment conducted for the PEI Aquaculture Alliance measured the total economic impact of the PEI Aquaculture industry and delivered impressive statistics on its scope and value.
The total economic value of PEI Aquaculture is estimated as being in excess of $230 million dollars. In 2012, the aquaculture industry paid more than $11 million in salaries to almost 2,000 men and women employed directly and in supply and service related jobs.
An article in The Financial Post in 2011 stated that with the increasing popularity of aquaculture as a means of production of seafood, comes a new breed of worker: Canadian women.
Statistics Canada was quoted as saying Canada’s $2.1 billion aquaculture industry has become a magnet for women seeking full-time, year-round employment. According to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, there are hundreds of specialized industry experts, including senior managers, nutritionists, fish health specialists/veterinarians, quality assurance managers and production managers in Atlantic Canada’s aquaculture industry.
Approximately 40 percent of Canada’s 14,500 aquaculture jobs are held by women. Canada’s aquaculture associations are largely run and staffed by women. Key roles in research and development, fish health, environmental sustainability, processing and communications are also increasingly being filled by women.
What’s happening on PEI?
As a leader in Canadian Aquaculture, PEI is also a trendsetter in involving women in key roles in the industry. These days, women play a much more active and recognized role in in varying capacities in the Aquaculture industry on PEI.
This evolving, more formalized role has also had a significant economic impact on the backbone of rural PEI.
The Prince Edward Island Aquaculture Alliance is an example. A number of women have served as Executive Directors since it was founded in 1998.
Some of the women include:
Crystal MacDonald was the founding Executive Director. Since leaving the position, she continues to participate significantly in the industry by completing several industry reports;
Linda Duncan moved from Executive Director of the Alliance to the Mussel Industry Council to promote a generic campaign for Eastern Canada’s mussel industry;
Ann Worth has been the current Executive Director with the Alliance for 18 months.
Women in science and management:
Women also fill many prominent and diverse roles in the science and management aspects of the industry.
Kim Gill is a Shellfish Aquaculture Biologist with the PEI Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Rural Development. She regularly publishes studies which benefit the day-to-day aquaculture operations on PEI.
Lori Cuddy is the Chief of Leasing with Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Women leaseholders, company shareholders and more:
Women are becoming more recognized as advocates for the industry and more outspoken in their roles as leaseholders, company shareholders, and more.
There are several examples of women participating actively in the aquaculture industry on PEI, including Joyce Marchbank and Diana Pickering below in photo.
Joyce Marchbank has had what some would perceive as a traditional introduction to the industry, through her marriage to Hubert Marchbank.
The Marchbank family had oyster leases for years in the Schurman’s Point area. Joyce had been a beauty queen in high school in Charlottetown, so her in-laws enjoyed daring the new family member to get involved in the industry.
After their third child, Joyce changed work streams from secretarial positions for which she studied at Holland College to oyster fishing. She fished on her own for 10 years in the public fishery while her husband worked full time elsewhere. Many days, she was the only woman on the water in the traditional oyster fishery.
Their first oyster lease was in Enmore River back in the 1980s. Joyce says they were one of the first to start “off bottom” oyster culturing in the mid1990s.
Through the years, Joyce’s family’s commitment to the industry has grown, and they have now moved into strictly aquaculture. For over a decade, they have worked with the National Research Council on research on their leases and have developed several innovations. This research resulted in the development of seepage pipe for spat collection, a thrashing machine to strip seed, and a water jet oyster harvester.
Joyce is also now a realtor with Re/Max Harbourside, and continues her interest in the industry by remaining up-to-date on issues affecting oyster aquaculture, attending meetings, and working on the leases.
Their four children grew up in the industry and would come to the oyster leases to play while their parents worked and then later to work themselves. The work ethic has rubbed off and the kids are currently attending university or have earned their degrees.
Joyce’s oldest child, Doug, just completed his PhD in Bio-Medical Science. Joyce laughs when she tells of how he said he would either be a doctor or a fisherman. Doug and his siblings may be the new generation in the industry.
Joyce says that although this can be a very physical job for women, it is rewarding. She considers herself very fortunate to be able to work with family and neighbors while learning, teaching, and participating in all aspects of the industry.
Diana Pickering of Malpeque grew up in the commercial fishery. In grade seven, she enjoyed going lobster fishing with her great uncle.
When you see how close her home is to the water, it is an understatement to say she has it in her blood. Her father worked as a lobster fisherman since he was 13 and now is retired and living across the road.
Diana has a degree in science and worked for some years with the province of PEI doing such things as testing lobster meat yields. She went on to Holland College and was an instructor in the Marine Science, Seafood Processing program. Then she returned to the water.
Diana fished lobster with her husband for over 10 years, even during summers off while teaching at Holland College. In the late 1980s she began with oyster leases. Now she is a partner in an aquaculture leasehold. She works alongside her brother, John Mackenzie, who also fishes lobster after buying their father’s fishing licenses and gear.
Her broad experience has made Diana as knowledgeable in the industry as any of her male counterparts. She does everything from making lunch, completing the necessary paperwork, and sorting through oyster spat.
With pride she speaks of her sons, who represent the next generation of the fishing and aquaculture industry.
One son could have completed his PhD in Marine Biology after attaining his Masters but he opted instead to fish. He just bought a lobster outfit.
Her other son is an engineer in Charlottetown who in his spare time developed a machine to assist his mother in grading and sorting oysters.
Diana recognizes that the aquaculture industry will continue to progress in the years ahead, but hard work is still the necessity.
For more about the Aquaculture industry, visit www.aquaculturepei.com.