The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Break The Bias”, an initiative highlighting where women are forging their own paths in particularly male dominated industries. Women working in Cornwall’s fishing industry are a prime example of this; hard-working, pioneering, and breaking the stereotypes for a more diverse and equitable world.

From female-fishermen (not fisherwomen!) to fishermen’s-wives-turned-social-media-moguls, there are women throughout Cornwall’s fishing supply chain who help to keep the ships sailing and the seafood selling.

Victoria Townsend – OceanFish

Victoria looks after and grows OceanFish’s retail accounts, with a focus on organic growth, new product development, and customer acquisition. But as well as support for the production team, Victoria’s main mission is to ‘see south west fish in retailers everywhere’ and she’s a real advocate for encouraging British consumers to move away from the ‘Big 5’ (aka. tuna, salmon, cod, haddock and prawns).

“The fishing industry is predominantly male dominated, but increasingly, there are more women coming through, and it’s great to be one of them.”

Last year, Victoria was part of our unique consortium which re-branded two underloved but seasonally abundant Cornish species to bring them into the spotlight. Last month, Victoria and the OceanFish team launched the new ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’ product line on Ocado! You can shop the line here.

Kerensa Dagnal – Shellfish supplier at Lisa-Marie Shellfish

Kerensa Dagnal, part owner of Lisa-Marie Shellfish in Padstow with her fisherman husband Jason, is relatively new to the fishing industry but hasn’t failed to make a mark: “I don’t think I’d ever held a lobster before two years ago, but now I’m loving it!”

As a beauty-therapist-turned-shellfish-supplier, Kerensa’s career drastically pivoted when she had to halt her beauty salon in 2020 due to the pandemic. When Jason and Kerensa started selling directly to the public, Kerensa built their brand on social media, using Instagram and TikTok to reach thousands and give an insight to the fishing life in Cornwall – with one TikTok in particular reaching 2 million people!

Now, with both the shellfish business and her own beauty salon thriving, Kerensa has to balance the demands of sorting, preparing and delivering orders with beauty treatments: “One day I’ve got my make-up on, my hair up in a bun in my beautician uniform, and the next day I’m covered in shellfish!”

Kerensa has featured in film and TV work for Women In Fisheries and This Fishing Life on the BBC. Her proudest achievement, she says, was being invited onto Stacey Dooley’s podcast Fresh Starts to talk about her transition into the industry. With these titles under her belt, it’s no surprise that she believes the key to getting more women involved in the industry is by exposure: “I just think visibility is key to encouraging women to get involved. Whether that’s on social media, whether you want to go out on a fishing boat, whether you want to set up a little shellfish business with your partner who might be a fisherman, if you see other women do it maybe some will think ‘maybe I can do that!’”.

“I see a lot of fishermen encouraging their daughters by taking them down to the boats and the harbour, and that’s great because they are going to grow up around it. They don’t just have to become fishermen either, for example it might be conservation that they go into, but just getting out there a bit more and making it more normal to see women in these roles is so important.”











Amy O’Brien – Fisherman

Amy O’Brien is a female fisherman from Cornwall, documenting her work through Instagram. With her audience of nearly 2000, she shares a glimpse of what life out at sea is like, her own learning process and gets stuck into all aspects of fishing life.

Here she is talking us through a day in her life as a fisherman:

Elaine Lorys – Female fishmonger

Cornwall is also home to the only female master fishmonger in the country; Elaine Lorys from Stevenson’s Newlyn. A fishmonger is only eligible for this prestigious certification if they have worked in the seafood industry for at least 10 years and own their own fishmonger business or be part of senior management, amongst other extensive prerequisites.

Elaine began work in the industry 23 years before receiving the award and, having been a window-shop dresser beforehand, came into the industry without any experience, only a drive and determination to try something new: “The owner of this shop [Stevenson’s] offered me a job and I never left. I told him I didn’t know anything about fish. He hired me because he thought I would be good in the shop – because I was chatty.”

Now, Elaine is a filleting extraordinaire and is the 13th person ever to be awarded the Master Fishmonger Standard Award.

Can’t get enough? Here’s more!

Record-value haul shows sustainable fishing pays dividends in Newlyn

• 5 fishing industry insights to brighten up your day

• ‘It’s up to us’: How the MSC Cornish hake fishery is ensuring fish for the future

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