Inspiring a new generation for Marine Awareness Week

Inspiring a new generation for Marine Awareness Week

Hear from Julie Thomas how the schools on St Helena celebrated their fishermen and fantastic one-by-one tuna fishery in advance of Marine Awareness Week

It’s Marine Awareness Week on St Helena island. While this year’s theme is “Invisible Oceans”, this week is also a fantastic opportunity to recognise the vital role our fishermen and fisheries play into the lives of all of us in St Helena.

I am proud to say that the importance of our marine sector continues to rise, featuring at the top of many stakeholder’s priority ladders. This is partly a result of our first ever international conference that was hosted on island in January and February, entitled “2018 Diverse Island Environments”, in combination with the growing international attention on our one-by-one tuna fishery.

Following the outstanding reception IPNLF received at the conference, via our local media and our social media, I was inspired to take this a step further.  That’s why, over the past few weeks, I visited the island’s schools to teach students about the traditional and sustainable tuna fishery that is on our doorstep. The response was awesome.

My journey started at St Pauls Primary School whose logo proudly tells us that “together everyone achieves more” – a sentiment that has proven to be true.  Students were enthusiastic, attentive and keen to learn more about our one-by-one fishing methods.

St Pauls Primary full school photo shoot with staff and students, hailing for our one-by-one fishery

The following week was extremely busy as I presented on consecutive days to ensure that Pilling Primary, Harford Primary and our secondary school – Prince Andrew all had the opportunity to learn more about the work of IPNLF and the importance of our fishers and our fishing industry.

Pilling Primary’s logo also highlights a key message to all of us when working hard to make a difference in developing our community and ensuring we manage this productively. It tells us that “Together as One” is the way to go and I couldn’t agree more, especially when they eagerly responded to the way in which we fish on St Helena.

The presentation ended with photos being taken with students and staff proudly supporting the work of IPNLF, raising our flag high, and showing their support in helping us to obtain our vision.

Julie Thomas, IPNLF’s Project Manager for St Helena taking the opportunity to get in the limelight

The very next day I travelled to Harford Primary School where once again I was greeted with smiles, enthusiasm and incredible questions. I took note of the tagline of the school’s logo which simply lets us know that “Learning Together” is the key to success.

Harford Primary was given the challenge at the end of their special assembly to come up with a promotional jingle/tagline which they felt would help to demonstrate their support for our one-by-one fishery.

Here is what they came up with:

Harford Primary School proudly showing-off their green uniform shirts and clasping the IPNLF flag

The last of the special assemblies took place at Prince Andrew School (PAS). This gave me the opportunity to explain in greater depth the IPNLF project and why St Helena’s fishery is so unique in terms of the size of our Marine Protected Area (MPA) and our long-standing history of one-by-one tuna fishing.

The feedback received from students and staff alike has been extremely encouraging and has convinced me that going forward the best way to get support is to engage with the very ones we continually claim we are fighting for – our future, our children.

Thanks are extended to all the staff and students from all four schools for making these presentations possible.

Meet the women working in St Helena’s tuna fishery

In 2016, St Helena government and fisheries stakeholders partnered with the International Pole & Line Foundation (IPNLF) to improve policy, practises and traceability, with the support of many local St Helenians including Julie Thomas, Elizabeth Clingham and Terri Clingham. The below shines a light on their inspiring stories working in various roles throughout the industry.

Julie has been working in the fishing industry for around twelve years and represents IPNLF’s workforce or ‘boots on the ground’ in St Helena, working as the Project Manager. In this role, she fosters the relationship between fishers, St Helena Fisheries Corporation Management (SHFC), and key stakeholders within the St Helena Government. She also supports IPNLF’s fishery and social-economic data collection programmes. Alongside her role with IPNLF, Julie is also on the board of the St Helena Fisheries Corporation (SHFC), an IPNLF Member that is responsible for promoting, representing and protecting the collective interests of commercial fishers. She works with the Government to determine policies necessary to commercialise fishing and fish marketing in St Helena and internationally.

“For me it is vitally important that we develop our industry and champion our cultural traditions which have been fundamental in preserving our tuna resources. I want to see St Helena’s fishers recognised for their responsible practices, their love for what they do and their desire to develop. It will be an honour for me to help shape, develop and improve our industry and I look forward to being a part of the team that creates the necessary policies and procedures that supports and protects these initiatives so that we can guarantee a sustainable future for our fishers and our fishery”.

Terri is St Helena Fisheries Corporation’s first ever female Operations Manager. In this role, she manages the cold store, ensuring product is properly sourced and managed, from the moment fresh product is received, through to local and international sales. Terri is accountable for ensuring that the cold store has competent and qualified staff as well as maintaining product quality, health, hygiene, and safe and efficient work practices in the factory.

“I am privileged to be the first female Operations Manager; I definitely worked hard to achieve this. It wasn’t easy, there were some bumps along the way but I got there in the end, with the help of the brilliant team I work with here at the Cold Store.”

Elizabeth has worked for a number of years as a Marine Science and then Conservation Officer for the St Helena Government. During these roles, she was deployed as a fisheries observer, undertook collection of scientific fisheries data and biological sampling and assisted in the development of St. Helena’s Fisheries Sector Strategy with various local and international stakeholders. Elizabeth was also part of the team that wrote St. Helena’s Marine Management Plan, which was the basis for declaring St. Helena’s Category Six Marine Protected Area. Recently, Elizabeth took up the role of General Manager at the St Helena Fisheries Corporation (SHFC), where she is responsible for the strategic, financial and business direction of the organisation which includes ensuring product management, systems and processes and other supporting systems to ensure that the organisation is ran as efficiently as possible.

“This is a pivotal time in St Helena’s fisheries sector development. Having been a part in the development of St. Helena’s MPA and the Fishing Sector Strategy, it is truly a privilege to be in a position to support this exciting new era of development of St Helena’s fishing industry. The passion I have for St. Helena is deep routed, this is my home and our children’s future. I am excited to be a part of this monumental time and I want to do a good job. As a female in a typically male-dominated arena I also hope to do women proud!”

This insight into St Helena’s seafood sector exemplifies that you only have to scratch the surface to see the many ways in which women are involved in seafood supply chains. Globally, there are women like Julie, Terri and Elizabeth, who are critical to fisheries management, commercial operations, resource sustainability and much more.