When you have outport roots like I do, you grow up loving the fishery. You also have a natural respect for those who earn their living from the sea. In my case, however, it was mostly the men of the community who donned the oilskins and rubbers and headed out in dory. It’s not that women didn’t do their fair share, mind you. Bandannaed – heads could be seen bobbing up and down in the hot sun throughout the season, worn ‘sensible’ heels balancing along the flakes as the women salted and turned fish.
Even today, most think the fishery is a male-dominated endeavour. One of my son’s close outport buddies entered the fishery when he finished school, the same as generations of males in his family did before him. I spoke with his mother just a week ago after yet another too-close-for-comfort trip at sea.
“I always said the water will take (him) from me. Never got him this time though,” she shared quietly.
But it’s not just our sons at risk when they hear the sea calling. The fishery has fired up the belly of many women throughout generations of our own. Garnish’s Melissa Grandy is one woman proud to earn her living at sea. Grandy started going out on in boat weekends with her father when he need an extra set of hands beginning when she was around 15. “I had no idea what I was doing, but he put me to work, and I did whatever he said to do, and I learned. Quick,” she said.”
Grandy helped gather the women of Garnish together for this special edition of The Herald., explaining why they felt the need this way;
“Because it’s time. For too long, people thought women in the fishery are just there getting stamps. And yes, there’s people who promote themselves as a harvester yet they haven’t stepped foot in boat. But us? We work hard at the fishery and we support each other. We haul our arses out of bed at 4 a.m. and then haul our guts out at sea. And then, we come home and we take care of kids, tend to elderly parents, we clean, cook, volunteer, and we contribute,” she says.
Is it worth it? Yes, she says emphatically. “We get to stay in the communities we love and we get to raise our children where we grew up, and hopefully the tradition continues with our children; sons or daughters.”
Pam Pardy Ghent, The Herald’s Managing Editor, can be reached by emailing [email protected]