Aquaculture employee, Michelle Franze, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)

Aquaculture employee, Michelle Franze, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)

Maximick: Women in salmon farming should be celebrated, not bullied

Growing numbers of women are making an impact on the North Island aquaculture scene

The VI Free Daily has covered many stories on the fish farming sector in recent months, including our campaign to bring awareness to – and end – the cyberbullying of women in our industry, and return to healthy, respectful online debate.

As we welcome another International Women’s Day, that campaign seems timelier than ever.

Women in salmon farming should be celebrated, not bullied, regardless of your opinion of the industry. After all, salmon farming is still a generally male-dominated industry, but it’s also a science and technology-led sector, one that is advancing so quickly that those involved in its progress are some of the best minds aquaculture have to offer – and more and more of those emerging leaders are women.

We are seeing more women stepping into management, executive, board and director roles.

We are seeing more women becoming farmers, working hard, long hours outside in our rainy, stormy, unpredictable west coast weather to raise salmon in remote camp settings.

We are seeing more young women with university educations entering the industry across the country. Right here in Campbell River you will find many women in their twenties with science, aquaculture and biology degrees from UVic, UBC, VIU and many east coast universities, like Dalhousie and Memorial. Many of these young women are working in environmental, regulatory and research roles at our B.C. farming companies to help lead salmon farming down an even more sustainable, responsible path.

Women are especially thriving in our freshwater hatcheries, where their patience, attention to detail and delicate handling of young salmon give our fish their best start at life. The important role these women play in the most fragile part of our salmons’ lifecycles does not get the attention or accolades it should, in my opinion.

All of these women, as different as they are, have many things in common. They are helping lead salmon farming into the future; they’re bringing bright new ideas and fresh perspectives to the table every day; they care about the ocean around us, and those who depend on it; and they contribute to (in many ways) the coastal communities we’re lucky to call home.

I think, if you peeled off the label of where they work, you will find a group of women you’d be very proud to say were from the North Island. You’d brag about them, because they’re an incredible, savvy, resilient group. They’re veterinarians (like Dr. Diane Morrison, the managing director at Mowi), Registered Professional Biologists, scientists, MBA grads, movers, shakers and decision makers.

But they’re also moms, partners, coaches, and volunteers. They’re our neighbours and friends.

These women are colourful, integral threads woven into our communities’ tapestries, and regardless of the divisive industry in which they work, they deserve to be celebrated for that.

Katie Maximick is a Campbell River-based community relations specialist with Grieg Seafood B.C. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

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