Are you someone who thinks that the Seafood Industry is only about boats, fish catches and a life on the ocean wave? Well, think again. The modern Seafood Industry includes a wide range of specialisations and career opportunities to suit every skill set.
The basic requirements are QQI certificates in commercial fishing, aquaculture or seafood processing. BIM Safety Card, and the BIM Passenger Boat Card are extremely popular and offer dual certification. These are accredited by QQI at Level 5 and approved by the Irish Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
The Irish Seafood industry is currently valued at 1.1bn euro and employs 11,000 people, mainly in coastal counties from Donegal to Louth.
Many of those involved in fishing and aquaculture have the entrepreneurial drive to develop and manage their own businesses, be it trawler, fish-farm processing business or retail unit.
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).
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?
How did you go about getting your current job?
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.
A good catch, especially when you catch more than a boat thats bigger than yours! When you’re 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 one’s abilities, so when you are tested and come out successful, it’s 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?
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?
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
What is your dream job?
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?
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?