August 26, 2021
“[The pandemic] …is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walkthrough it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers, and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
- Arundhati Roy, “The Pandemic is a Portal”
While life can feel like a series of choices, challenges and changes can happen without your consent. For example, because of the global pandemic and despite my best efforts, I lost my job. I am honored and humbled to share the evolution of my career as a woman in the seafood industry, one that closely mirrors the evolution of the sustainable seafood movement itself.
I’ve been passionate about the sustainable seafood movement since its inception over 20 years ago. I have worked tirelessly since 2008 to engage Russian commercial salmon fisheries in sustainability initiatives with a special focus on the Sakhalin Island pink and chum salmon fisheries in the Russian Far East—one of the most prolific salmon fisheries on our planet.
However, as I stood in the parking lot of a processing facility on Sakhalin after a particularly rough day, I had a moment of clarity: I felt that I was missing a big piece of the equation. I asked myself,
What am I doing to support the people and communities who depend on these
Around that time, newspapers started to release bombshell articles about forced and child labor in global seafood supply chains and I began to think about how to ensure social responsibility in global fisheries and their supply chains. I evolved to theorize that if people’s livelihoods and social wellbeing were assured, they would be better environmental stewards. At this time, I was fortunate to transition to an organization that worked to ensure social responsibility in small-scale fisheries. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and I lost my job.
Throughout my time navigating the seafood industry one thought has persisted and grown in importance; there is a large need for gender equality and women’s empowerment, period. Women make up 50% of workers in global seafood production and are found at every link of the seafood supply chain. Even though one of every two workers in seafood is a woman, their voices are seldom heard in fisheries management discussions, their work is rarely acknowledged and sometimes unpaid, and their vast contributions to ensure thriving fisheries are rarely recognized.
I realized that due to the global crises we are facing – the COVID-19 pandemic; the reckoning that social justice movement like “Black Lives Matter” brings to the U.S. and abroad; and the global impact of climate change on our ocean and planet – the status quo is no longer an option. We are spurred into another evolution and, importantly, this evolution must put women front and center.
I took a risk and ventured out on my own; I started SAGE (Seafood and Gender Equality) an initiative to uplift, amplify, and integrate diverse women’s voices in global seafood production. SAGE has an ambitious goal of achieving gender equality and empowering women in at least 75% of global seafood production by 2030. Importantly, we recognize that there is no one solution to address the challenges facing our growing population; therefore, collaboration is key.
To achieve SAGE’s mission, we promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through education, advocacy, and communication. As a relatively new initiative, I spend most of my time educating about the unseen women behind our seafood through webinars, interviews, articles, and social media. As we grow, I plan to work in all areas where women can be found in seafood supply chains— so, basically everywhere! I’m extremely excited to put my storytelling and communication skills to work and share the amazing stories of the women who work hard to put seafood on our plates and shelves globally. (Psst, a podcast and a digital magazine are in the works, so stay tuned for more information once we are ready to launch!)
We have a long way to go to ensure that gender equality – a fundamental human right – is assured in every country on the planet. But we are evolving, and we have choices. As we celebrate women this industry, let’s challenge each other to put women front and center to lead the evolution to a more sustainable and equitable future.
Note: This article was originally published on March 8, 2021 for International Women's Day and was republished August 26, 2021 for Women's Equality Day.
8TH MARCH 2022 INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY THEME: #BreaktheBias
FIA-PNG aims to be one of the World’s best industry advocates for fisheries management and reputable business, social welfare and promoting sustainable harvest of our resources. FIA-PNG is aware of the challenges the seafood supply chain faces with pressing issues regarding social responsibility and social accountability in the fishing industry.
Thus, we at the FIA- PNG have are committed to develop and implement our “Responsible Sourcing Policy’ (RSP) with its four key pillars which are;
Sustainable Fisheries Management – FIA-PNG attained its MSC Certification Scheme in May 2020 and has since been adhering to the high international standards to come with it.
Fisheries Traceability - FIA uses one of the cutting-edge technologies through the use of the integrated Fisheries Information System (iFIMS) to track, trace and monitor MSC catches from net to plate.
Marine Litter and Fishing Gear Management – FIA-PNG is currently implemented this pillar across all its fishing vessels, especially discouraging the use of “Single use Plastic” (SuP).
Social Responsibility and Human Rights Welfare – FIA-PNG is committed to subscribe and attain international certification standards. One of its members, RD Fishing (PNG) Limited, recently attained certification under “Responsible Fishing Vessel Scheme” (RFVS), while the rest of its members are preparing to undergo external audit by SGS for the FISHstandard certification.
In the PNG processing factories, the FIA PNG members employ between 70% to 80% of women directly involved in the tuna processing from butchering, cooking, cleaning, canning, and packing. In addition, between 5% to 10% are in the supervisory and management level. Women in PNG provide an important labour force, an important backbone for the tuna sector.
Pillar #4 SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS WELFARE (FISHStandard)
In acknowledgement of this growing expectation of social accountability compliance, FIA-PNG ensures all its members in the tuna industry, both fishing operation and shore-based processing operations in PNG, implements social accountability assessment process (action plans per company)
This comprise of independent assessment of the industry performance against the ILO Convention 188 and the SA 8000 Standard (which are applicable for a fishing and processing operation), training and capacity building of local counterparts to undertake internal audits or self-assessment to identify gaps and implement corrective actions where required. FIA-PNG Crew Welfare and labour onboard conditions procedure and audit tool have initially assessed 45% of the FIA members’ fleets.
FIA-PNG and its members have embarked on a journey to adopt the FISHStandard (Fairness, Integrity, Safety and Health (FISH) and “Responsible Fishing Vessel Scheme” which focuses on fair and ethical labour practices on board fishing vessels. Both FISHstandard and RFVS supports Goal 8 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. The FISHstandard and RFVS draw on the experiences of those who helped develop international agreements on labour practices which FIA-PNG members aspire to emulate in their operations.
FIA-PNG supports the course for International Women’s Day 8th March 2022 and embrace the theme #BreakTheBias and our FIA-PNG members are proud to be part of the fishing industry and a seafood supply chain that promotes Gender Equality.
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Gender bias is undermining our social fabric and devalues all of us. It is not just a human rights issue; it is a tremendous waste of the world’s human potential. By denying women equal rights, we deny half the population a chance to live life to its fullest. Political, economic and social equality for women will benefit all the world’s citizens. Together we can eradicate prejudice and work for equal rights and respect for all.