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What are your interests?



Not surprisingly, some aspect of the natural sciences will run through the Naturalist's interests - from ecological awareness to nutrition and health. People with an interest in horticulture, land usage and farming (including fish) are Naturalists.

Some Naturalists focus on animals rather than plants, and may enjoy working with, training, caring for, or simply herding them. Other Naturalists will prefer working with the end result of nature's produce - the food produced from plants and animals. Naturalists like solving problems with solutions that show some sensitivity to the environmental impact of what they do. They like to see practical results and prefer action to talking and discussing.

Liz O'Toole, Skipper
Maritime, Fishing & Aquaculture

Liz O'Toole, Skipper

It was a personal choice to follow a career in the fishing industry. I did a NCUA course in fishing in the area of becoming a Deckhand. A Deckhand is someone who accompanies and assists the Skipper and his crew. This course led to a work placement on a boat. Three years later, the Skipper on the boat on which I worked gave me the position of 2nd Skipper so I completed the certificate of competency (skipper 2nd hand).

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first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

It was a personal choice to follow a career in the fishing industry. I did a NCUA course in fishing in the area of becoming a Deckhand. A Deckhand is someone who accompanies and assists the Skipper and his crew. This course led to a work placement on a boat. Three years later, the Skipper on the boat on which I worked gave me the position of 2nd Skipper so I completed the certificate of competency (skipper 2nd hand). When he retired I decided to purchase my own boat and to continue my career in the fishing industry. I decided to do this as being a woman in a male dominated career  I felt I would have more control over my future if I was my own boss.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

It was 90% my own choice. I canít say anyone influenced my choice. I made my final choice when I visited the BIM stand in FAS Opportunities in the RDS. My family would have helped by facilitating me.

How did you go about getting your current job?

I got my current job when I bought my own boat; it is my own business.

Describe a typical day?

My timescales vary depending on weather, tides, etc. My boat is small so generally you get ashore at night. I can work from 5am to 6pm or from 10am to 11pm. You only work when work is to be done i.e. when you are fishing, but the more work you do and the more fish you catch then the better the money.

The pressure on me personally is high as I am responsible for finding and catching the fish. The crew have to sort, clean and stow the fish in boxes with ice. Teamwork is vital, when you have a good team the work is done far quicker, easier and the quality of the product is higher which in turn commands better prices. The biggest reward every day is the number of full boxes of fish stowed for sale. The job is never routine or boring and it changes every day.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

My tasks as Skipper are as follows; accounting for all crew, steering the boat to the fishing grounds, keeping up to-date on fishing reports, ensuring that the area being towed on is clear (so the nets don't get damaged) and monitoring all other sea traffic. We would all shoot the gear (nets, etc.) Once the gear is hauled (which usually takes 3-4 hours) it is shot again. The catch is put on board which the crew now sort, grade, gut, wash and stow in boxes. I am responsible for everything from the lives of the crew, to the safety of the boat and to catching enough fish to make the wages.

What are the main challenges?

I am most challenged by the need to catch fish, i.e. enough to make good wages for the crew and myself. I get fantastic job satisfaction from this. Seeing a good catch of fish coming aboard gives me great motivation, you forget any problems and seem to get energy from no-where. Other aspects of fishing would stress me more; i.e. slack, fishing boat breaking down, bad weather, bad fish prices, and some of the ridiculous rules and regulations which are in force at the moment in Ireland.

What's cool?

A good catch, especially when you catch more than a boat thats bigger than yours! When youíre able to fix a possibly life threatening problem out at sea, and continue fishing and you always have plenty of opportunities to do so. Fishing is continuously a test of oneís abilities, so when you are tested and come out successful, itís good/cool.

What's not so cool?

Sometimes people can be seasick, which they don't boast about and thats not cool. The anti-social aspect of the job is not cool; having to work weekends and during holidays. Sometimes cramped living/working conditions on board a boat are not great. Government rules and regulations which are making the job very hard and are forcing a lot of fishermen to go to sea in very bad weather.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

Fishing requires nearly every skill. Netmending, splicing, navigating, radio certificates, all safety and first aid, cooking, welding, carpentry, gutting, engineering, management, team understanding and fitness.

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

My choice of subjects didn’t directly affect my career path but Geography helped. You only needed a junior cert when I chose my career, although I did the Leaving Cert. I did the Deckhand Course to start which included safety training and an introduction to most of the skills required. Most training is done on the job. I then did the 2nd hand full certificate of competency (Skipper) which you needed to start as a Skipper on a boat. I don’t think I would have changed my education choices.

What is your education to date?

All secondary school, Leaving Cert, NCUA Deckhand Course with work placement (4 months), Radio Cert Ďlong range certí (3 days), First Aid Sea Survival (3 days), Firefighting, Certificate of Competency (skipper) 4 month course with GOC (general operators certificate Ďradio courseí).

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

All my education during and since secondary school has been useful.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

Being a woman in a man’s job!  Being able to work in the job successfully and being the Skipper of my own boat.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

Ambitious, Very motivated, Teamwork, Patience, ability NOT to panic when things go wrong, being versatile and adapting quickly.

What is your dream job?

Skippering my own boat. I would like a bigger and more comfortable boat, maybe a 15-18 metre fishing boat.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Commercial fishing can be anti-social due to  the long irregular hours and the irregular days that one works. The job is completely weather dependant. A motivated person can easily progress up the career ladder with great personal and relatively good financial reward. Pay is a share of the catch. The choice of going out fishing/taking time off is largely yours within reason (i.e. if you have a good understanding with your boss).

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Talk to people currently in the job. Get a few days work experience. Check out the courses (through BIM)

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

You must have the interest. It requires physical strength. To be able to work long hours.

Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

I donít know yet, it depends where my life goes. I am well qualified for what Iím doing currently.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Go fishing on a boat for a few days. You can do this through someone you know involved in fishing or connected some way, or through BIM

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