WOMEN IN SEAFOOD
NSW Mary Howard GAICD
Mary has, as a partner with Graham, been involved for more than 38 years in the Hawkesbury River commercial fishing industry prawn trawl fishery. Together they have built twenty two fibreglass commercial fishing boats aside to the actual fishing participation, they have three children, sons Gary and Ricky currently operating trawlers in the fishery. Passionate about the Hawkesbury River and the fishery Mary involved herself in local environmental groups and catchment management. Earning a spot on the Hawkesbury Nepean River Management Forum for four years then the Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Management Board for six years, Mary has written four papers and presented these at various Conferences around Australia.
Mary has held numerous positions on various community voluntary organisations as well as Secretary for the Hawkesbury River Commercial Fishing Association Inc., currently the NSW Director for WINSC and secretary of the NSW Wild Caught Fishers Coalition Inc. an organisation that Mary in conjunction with likeminded commercial fishers formed to unite the NSW Commercial Fishing Industry. Prior achievements include: Runner up in the 2006 Rural Women’s Award, highly commended 2016 University of Western Sydney Women of the West Award, Winner Sydney Fish Market Excellence in Environmental practice and completed a term as a director on the National Rural Women’s Coalition.
WINSC: When and how did you get involved in the seafood industry?
Mary: Married and living in our first home Graham worked for boat builders Bindley and Roberts at Menai NSW, the two bosses decided to take a break from boat building and go ocean fishing, Graham was to go along with them, he didn’t take kindly to the sea so he came home and since we had always had a boat under construction of some description. Graham had assisted in building a boat for a Hawkesbury Prawn Trawl fisher, we visited Laughtondale, we then purchased land from the fishers relative; a prawn trawl fisher. Sold the home at East Hills in Sydney, we built it before we married and then moved to the Hawkesbury Valley, into a caravan in a shed we had built.
WINSC: What is your biggest reward working in the seafood industry?
Mary: Living out of the city, having land to move around on, enjoying the whole family life on the property and the river, both home with the children growing up, although, the two of us did work long hours. The property had an orchard initially which involved fruit picking, I came off of a farm, I could again breathe, although life was tough and building another home a challenge with location isolated and phone service still party line. Small school for the children, lots to do and life always a learning curve.
WINSC: Would you encourage women to follow a career in the seafood industry? Why?
Mary: To be involved in the harvest side of the seafood industry, you must have very specific qualities, not have set time frames for life activities and be flexible with your ability to give in a relationship. It is demanding, knowledge must cover the health of waterways, the lifecycle of fish, elements of fresh seafood handling, packaging, and understanding the management regimes that fit with the state you live. A fisher these days is constantly defending his job rights, I can’t see this changing without government taking a very significant change in attitude to their policy and the consumer’s rights. The industry has its rewards, you will have to stand up and defend your rights and think long and hard at the resilience you have to take the ups and the downs. Your product must be fresh and high quality.