April 28, 2017 — “At the beginning of my fishing career, all the world told me that the trade was for men,” says Chrifa Nimri, “but now all my colleagues respect and call me captain.”
The 69-year-old Tunisian fisherwoman is one of a very small female minority in a very male-dominated profession – commercial fishing.
Around the world, the dangerous work of hauling in the catch at sea is overwhelmingly performed by men. But if you expand the definition of fishing to include processers and marketers of seafood, workers in small-scale and artisanal fisheries, and collectors of clams and other shellfish, women account for a substantial part of the global industry.
Sara Skamser has worked in or around commercial fishing for nearly her entire adult life. In her early 20s, she arrived on the Oregon coast and collected her first paychecks salmon fishing and crabbing in local waters. Then Skamser asked for jobs on bigger boats home-ported in Newport — better pay and bigger adventure and all. But, she recalls, none of those skippers would hire her.
“No. They said no.” She mimics them. “’Uh, I know you could do the job. Gosh, you’re probably stronger than me. Uhhh, but I don’t think my wife would like it.’ Or, ‘Uhhh. I would feel terrible if you got hurt on my boat.'”