Celebrating Women in Fisheries

World Ocean Day was June 8, and we loved hearing about all the inspiring projects and activists working to improve the health of our oceans. This year’s focus was “gender and the ocean,” a topic very dear to our hearts. 

Of course, work to protect marine environments and create thriving fisheries is a year-round job, so this week we’re continuing the appreciation for ocean advocates by giving props to some of our favorite women in fisheries. From tech to government, these amazing women are working to make global fisheries more equitable and sustainable every day of the year.


Patima Tungpuchayakul, founder of the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation, is a key actor in the effort to end slavery at sea in Southeast Asia. In more than two decades as an activist, she has helped to create awareness of chronic human rights violations and improve the lives of migrant workers and the laws governing their employment. Between August 2014 and October 2016, Patima rescued 3,000 trafficked workers stranded on remote islands in Indonesian waters by the Thai fishing industry. In recognition of her efforts, Tungpuchayakul was chosen as the winner of the Seafood Champion Award for Advocacy in 2018.


Dr. Darian McBain is the global director of sustainability for Thai Union, the world's largest producer of canned tuna. McBain led the creation of "SeaChange", a cohesive sustainability strategy for Thai Union, and spearheaded worker’s rights initiatives like the abolition of recruitment fees. She also led a pilot—in collaboration with the Thai government—to install satellite communication technology on vessels, improving communications and data collection at sea. Also, a hearty congrats on her Seafood Champion Award in the Vision category for 2019, awarded this week at the Seaweb Seafood Summit.


Dr. Melissa Garren: straddling fisheries and tech, Garren is the COO and Chief Scientist of Pelagic Data Systems, a company she co-founded to raise the global standard for vessel tracking with custom-made technology and data analytics. One of the leading women in the tech space within fisheries work, Melissa was recently named one of Conscious Company’s 35 World-Changing Women in Conscious Business. She has also led the charge to create technology for tracking ghost gear—one more way her work is helping fisheries become more sustainable.


Dr. Megan Bailey is an assistant professor at Dalhousie University’s marine affairs program. Bringing academic rigor to the study of sustainable seafood, Bailey’s research focuses on how market and state approaches can combine to improve cooperation around global fisheries governance. Her traceability work has been published widely, and her mission of marine governance for a cooperative commons is creating ripples far beyond academia.


Jaz Simbolon is the fair trade manager at MDPI foundation, where she manages the implementation of Fair Trade Capture Fisheries Standard for small scale handline fishers. Her leadership in the Fair Trade arena has been exemplary, and she has done an amazing job of creating communities of fishers to work together for the Fair trade concept. Becoming a best friend to fishers while also pushing hard towards stringent sustainability standard is no easy task, but Jaz is rocking it.


Susi Pudjiastuti: Indonesia’s maritime affairs and fisheries minister—also known as “Madam Susi”—has a hard-charging reputation. Her dedication to improved health of Indonesia’s fishing grounds has seen her declaring war on foreign fishing boats that encroach on Indonesia’s territorial waters, often seizing (and sometimes blowing up) the offending boats. This approach has gained her plenty of political enemies, but also plenty of fervent fans.

This list is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of awesome women in fisheries. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out Farah Yasmin Obaidullah’s database highlighting the work of women in oceans all over the world. From the bottom of our fish-loving hearts, thanks to everyone putting in the hard work to make fisheries more sustainable, support ocean health, and enhance the wellbeing of coastal communities around the world.