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Today we are hearing from Caitlin McGarigal. Caitlin is a Ph.D. candidate, University of Massachusetts Amhers Dept. Environmental Conservation and the project manager of “Spatial ecology and response to catch-and-release of recreationally targeted fish species on St. François and Alphonse Atolls, Alphonse Group, Seychelles Outer Islands: Implications for conservation and management.” We have a short interview with her. 

What is your contribution towards ocean conservation and/or the blue economy?

My research aims to promote sustainable fishing practices by understanding the effects of catch-and-release fishing pressures on the movement, physiology, and activity of recreationally targeted fish species. I also focus on educating the fishing community about the specific ways anglers can reduce stress on fish to improve their likelihood of survival and recovery when released. My goal is that this research is used to promote sustainable management of fisheries so that the economic value of this industry benefits from fish conservation.

What is your proudest achievement for the ocean?

My proudest achievement is seeing the direct influence of my research on how fishermen behave in terms of what they catch and what they release fish. It is rewarding to show how careful handling during catch and release can make a difference for a fish’s survival, recovery and ability to continue growing, spawning and contributing to the population.

Do you believe that there is gender equality when it comes to leadership, community action, and investors and businesses in the blue economy? 

I think that like the business world fishing has traditionally been male-dominated, but this is changing at every level from who is enjoying this sport up through leadership positions in management and policy. I think that there are so many women out there who are intelligent, capable, and eager to make a difference and we will continue to see more women involved in marine research, conservation, and the blue economy.

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Are there challenges that you face as a woman working in this space? If so, what are they?

I think the assumption is often that as a woman I do not know as much about fishing and management as my male counterparts. Because of this I make a point to stay very sharp, up to date, and knowledgeable about the subjects related to my profession. I also believe that if you work hard, do good research, and produce results then your work speaks for itself –which is one of the things I love about science and research. That being said, when you spend 10 hours a day on the water with a bunch of guys, like I do, then it helps to have a sense of humor!

Do you have advice for the younger generation or other women who are thinking about taking up a role in this space? 

My advice to young women (or women of any age) is that if you have a passion, pursue it. Whether that passion is for research or business or politics you will need a thick skin to be successful in these industries. I also believe that working hard and taking opportunities to learn from anyone you can are the keys to achieving your goals in any profession.

Have you contributed or thought of contributing to achieving gender equality in the blue economy or your workplace? What is this contribution? 

I have had truly exceptional mentors and all of them have been men. So although I am still early in my own career I think my experiences and advice can provide young women in the sciences with a perspective that they may find useful when pursuing their own goals. I believe one of the most valuable contributions you can make to your field is nurturing and supporting the next generation, so I am excited that in marine science, conservation and the blue economy this will include a number of women.

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