Case study - Anne-Margaret Anderson, SWFPA

Anne-Margaret Anderson couldn't imagine herself working in any other industry than fishing, and with very good reason. Growing up right beside the harbour in a tight-knit island community in the Outer Hebrides, and the daughter of a fourth generation fisherman, fishing is in Anne Margaret's blood."Some of my earliest memories involve being around fishing boats… I've witnessed first-hand the determination and commitment that is required to make a viable living from fishing."
Photo of Anne-Margaret Stewart

After graduating from Edinburgh University, Anne-Margaret got her first job at the levy body Seafish, which represents the seafood industry. Employed within the Economics team on data collection projects, she spent the first three years of her job travelling around the UK to various fishing ports, interviewing skippers on their business performance. "I loved every minute of that experience and I learned so much from all the fishermen that I met with."

Anne-Margaret continued to work with Seafish for a number of years before moving on to take up a role with its sister organisation Seafood Scotland. "Whilst I enjoyed my time at both these organisations, I began to think more about my long term career aspirations. I was very aware that the elements of my jobs that I most enjoyed where those that allowed me to interact directly with the fishing industry."

Anne-Margaret made a conscious decision to use her time at Seafish and Seafood Scotland to equip her for a fisheries representation role "…something that would combine my two interests, fisheries policy and the catching sector". When the opportunity came up to work with the Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA) in late 2014, Anne-Margaret put her heart and soul into preparing for the interview. "I knew that this was my big chance to position myself on the career path that I really wanted to be on. Luckily for me the long hours of preparation paid off and I'm now doing a job that I'm really motivated to do and have a genuine passion for."

Doing the thing she loves isn't always easy, but her characteristically pragmatic approach serves her well in an industry prone to change. "I love the diversity of my role. In any given day I can take up to 10 phone calls on ten different issues affecting our members. It keeps me interested and on my toes, there is no time to day-dream!" And despite landing her dream job, Anne-Margaret isn't complacent - her ambitions for the industry are aspirational and heartfelt "[I want to] continue carving out a successful career representing the interests of Scottish fishermen at a local, national and international level, to continue gaining the respect and trust of the SWFPA membership. I would like to see the gulf between industry, scientists, the regulators and the eNGOs continue to close. We've come a long way towards achieving this but there is still a fair stretch of road left to travel."

We got in touch with Anne-Margaret and asked her some questions about her views on Women In Seafood.

  1. Do you know of any other women who work in a similar role to you, and if not, do you think there is a reason for this?
    In Scotland I could count on one hand the number of women who are employed to represent the catching sector. Traditionally these roles have been filled by men but I can see a definite shift occurring and I think this is a trend that we'll see continue in the years to come.
  2. Did you ever have any doubts or fears about entering this industry and do you feel it is an industry that is adaptable and open to change?
    If you have doubts or fears about entering any industry then it's not for you. You need to be enthusiastic and up for the challenges that lie ahead. As for industry being adaptable, I can't think of many industries that need to be as adaptable and open to change as the fishing industry. The reams of legislation that govern fishing activity in the EU are constantly changing.
  3. What are the biggest challenges of working in the seafood industry from a personal and professional point of view?
    It can be a demanding industry to work in. There's no chance of a 9-5, Monday to Friday work schedule. This can sometimes make it difficult to find time to switch off and unwind from your work. Checking emails last thing at night and first thing in the morning has become a daily ritual. While this keeps me on the ball I sometimes wish that I could completely switch off from it all.
  4. What advice would you have for women who were thinking of a career in this industry?
    Don't focus on the fact that you're a woman working in a male dominated industry. You need to be strong and self-assured that you're views are just as worthy as those of the men that you work for/with. I strongly believe that as long as you know your stuff you will be respected and gender will be irrelevant.
  5. Finally, in reference to the furore surrounding the term 'fishermen' - do you think we need a gender-neutral term for fishermen?
    Most definitely not. Fishermen are fishermen. We all know what the term means, why go changing it? There's bigger fish  to fry!

Inshore and Environmental Policy Co-ordinator for the Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA)