Moving towards a diverse and sustainable fishing industry

There are so many roles in the fishing industry. It can be very rewarding but depending on the role it can sometimes cold and physically tiring too.  We spoke with Katie Keay, Senior Fisheries Outreach Manager, UK & Ireland at the Marine Stewardship Council about the sustainability of the industry, its complexities and what can be done to encourage more women and young people to enter it.

Could you tell us a little of your background and how you moved into working at MSC?

I was an inner city girl that became obsessed with the sea after discovering weird and wonderful creatures in rockpools on beach holidays. As soon as I was old enough I learned to SCUBA dive, and a whole new aquatic world opened up to me. I worked in Greece and Zanzibar as a professional diver before deciding to focus on my studies again, and did a Masters in Conservation. This moved me in to the world of seafood, and I recognised the power (and responsibility!) of business for change. The UK supply chain is a leader in environmental sustainability and the world of seafood is a dynamic, interesting, challenging and rewarding place to be. I am hooked! The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is the gold standard for environmental sustainability and a brilliant tool to show a fishery has been independently certified as sustainable.

Katie Keay with Jo Pollet from Women in Fisheries

Katie Keay with Jo Pollet from Women in Fisheries

What are some of the obstacles preventing fisheries from becoming more sustainable?

Fisheries are so complex. As the only source of wild caught protein we eat on a global scale, it’s essential that we operate all fisheries sustainably. This requires good fisheries management, cooperation between fishing nations, good science and data to estimate the health of the stock, and minimising damage to the environment or other species. The other pillars of sustainability (social and economic) are equally important –supporting communities and being economically viable are key to truly sustainable fisheries.

Are you seeing more women moving into the industry?

The seafood world does have a lot of women in key roles, although perhaps less so at the boardroom level. In fisheries in the UK though there are some brilliant, strong women and it is inspiring to see and hear them lead the way. Traditionally in fisheries women have had a key role in the processing of fish once it is landed – fishwives, as they were known, were stereotyped as strong women with coarse language – and now that role is a bit more gender balanced (and who is to say whether or not the language has cleaned up at all…!). One place we still don’t see so many women is on boats – fishing – but I am certain there is a welcome industry waiting if anyone was questioning their next career step.

How can people become aware of the diversity of roles in the fishing industry? 

There are so many roles in the fishing industry! It’s a brilliant, fun, rewarding and, let’s be honest, depending on the role it can sometimes cold and physically tiring too. If you want to find out more have a look at Seafish, whose mission is to support the seafood sector in the UK to help it thrive. Careers in the UK seafood industry — Seafish

What can be done to improve women’s visibility in the fisheries industry?

 When I speak to other women in fisheries (and across the seafood sector) the message is loud and clear: speak up for each other, support each other, and encourage each other. This isn’t a race, there is room for us all. And that also goes to the men – vocalising your support is your job too!

What can be done to encourage a younger generation to move into the fisheries industry?

It can be hard to imagine getting into the fishing industry if you come from an inner city and have no connection to fishermen. Including education and short films about this sort of career would be a great start, and funded training courses and access to experiencing a day in the life of a fisherman would be a great opportunity for younger people with an adventurous streak.

Katie Keay is responsible for the UK Fisheries Outreach team; working with fishery clients engaged with, or interested in, MSC certified fisheries. She also oversees Project UK – the MSC’s UK-based fishery improvement project workstream. It is a collaborative partnership working towards an environmentally sustainable future for UK fisheries.

View all news

Some of our supporters

Subscribe to the newsletter

Sign up today to be first to find out all the latest news and offers from WIFI