Judy is an absolute legend in the WA fishing industry having worked on the deck of lobster boats, driving the boat lifter at the marina and today working for the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-op receival depot as Depot Manager
How and when did you begin working in the seafood industry?
I was born into the industry. My grandfather Oliver Cromwell Wilson was one of the first to fish for crays off the W.A. coast and during the early 60s as a nipper I often fished with him and my Dad for snapper and dhuies. At Grandad’s knee I learned about knots and splicing, how to gut and dress a fish, how to tie a boat on moorings and he was a hard taskmaster, but fair. Dad worked with Grandad and then bought his own licence and fished out of Leeman where, as a pre-teen, I worked on the deck during the holidays where I drove between pots and winched the pots when Dad took over for the heavy work. I did a teaching degree but found the longing for the wide blue ocean was greater than being stuck under a roof. I worked 2nd crew on the Aqua Lass to gain a foothold in crayfishing. Then single crew on the Sea Spark and finished out the season. During the off-season of that year I worked for Yanchep Sun City driving the boat lifter and working as a general hand on the marina where I got to know many of the fishermen from other ports. In 1984 I worked as depot manager for W.A. Seafoods crayfish receivals driving the truck to and from Fremantle, hand loading and unloading 45 kg bags of crays and 3 – 4 tons of bait a day and servicing 21 boats – alone! I did this for 20 years until they closed out of the industry.
Offered a job by Lobster Australia, I managed their depot for 3 years until Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative bought them out. I’ve run the depot for G.F.C. for the last 10 years and intend to continue as long as I am able.
What is your biggest reward working in the seafood industry?
Being able to work outside with the fishermen, occasionally working a deck at need, diving on snagged pots, signwriting the name and numbers on the boats and being part of a fishing family of men and their partners that I’ve grown up with. My job is as much social as it is an employment and my reward is being respected in the industry as someone able to work alongside men but still being respected as a woman, strong, capable and excellent at my job.
Would you encourage women to follow a career in the seafood industry? Why?
Very few women would be able to do what I do. The physicality of the job where daily I’m required to lift from 10, to 200, 35 kg. crates off the boat, onto the trolley, off the trolley onto the scale, off the scale into the tanks, out of the tanks onto the truck not to mention the 100 25kg boxes of bait out of the freezer onto the trolley, off the trolley onto the boat, so it would need someone who had grown physically into the job. But the industry is now a major live exporter with many niches that would suit the conscientious hand of a woman and there is ample room for women to enter the industry in the production, research, marketing side of the industry.