International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) today one in two workers in the seafood industry are women. Women are essential contributors to different sectors of the industry including fisheries, aquaculture, seafood processing and all related services.
Women represent 70 per cent of the total workforce in aquaculture. You will find women doing everything-including raising fish, preparing them for fresh sales, or cutting filets to be frozen or packaged in tins. In fish farming, women represent the dominant proportion of the labour force.
To celebrate International Women’s Day we interviewed Michelle Bluhm, Site Manager at Marine Harvest Canada (MHC). Michelle started as a summer intern with the company in 2011 and began working full time upon graduation from Vancouver Island University’s Fisheries and Aquaculture program. Michelle has spent her career at Marine Harvest in the Quatsino area located northwest of Vancouver, British Columbia. In 2014, she became the assistant manager of Monday Rock and since September 2016, Michelle has been the site manager of Monday Rock where her team raise Atlantic salmon for markets in Canada and the US. .
Tell me about your usual work day.
I work a week on and week off rotation, which means I stay and work at the farm for 8 days and enjoy 6 days off. When on site, my main responsibilities include overseeing all farm site operations, providing leadership and managing a production team. Currently, I’m also charged with looking after the welfare of about 1.3 million Atlantic salmon smolts. I ensure that we are compliant with Canadian regulations and MHC Standard Operating Procedures. Monday Rock is certified to several standards, including ASC, BAP and OSSE. I assist my staff with all farm duties, from feeding to fish health, to sea lice and gill scores, to farm maintenance. A huge part of my role is the financials, keeping us on budget.
Do you feel that your experience, and that fact that you are a woman, brings something unique to your role?
Yes! Life experience, transferable skills and education played a large part in my accelerated career with MHC. I feel one of my strengths are the soft skills. Being empathetic and supportive towards my staff has huge benefits. They feel respected and valued. When you have a happy team, work is easy and life is good!
What do you think is the added value of women in the seafood industry?
I find that the other women I have worked with in the industry add a level of organization, thoroughness and dedication. This combined with a great work ethic, improves any site in my opinion.
In your experience, how is the gender representation in this sector?
If I look back on my graduating class, it was quite balanced. If I look at the Quatsino area, there has always been a strong presence of women. MHC has created specialized teams. This means that there are different opportunities in different departments for different skill sets.
About Marine Harvest Canada
Marine Harvest Canada is the leading salmon aquaculture company in British Columbia. Marine Harvest globally produces one-fifth of the world’s farm-raised salmon at facilities in Norway, Scotland, Canada, Chile, Ireland and the Faroe Islands. Globally, they employ over 10,000 people of which 43 per cent are women. In Canada, they operate salmon farms on the coast of beautiful British Columbia and Vancouver Island, where 530 people produce 45,000 tonnes of sustainable farm-raised Atlantic salmon each year.
Marina Harvest Canada’s salmon are certified to the Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices and they are the first company in North America to have a farm certified to the Aquaculture Stewardship Council salmon standard.