Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 27, 2015 and The Weekly Packet, August 27, 2015
Genevieve McDonald is building a bridge between fishing and policy
by Faith DeAmbrose
Genevieve Kurilec McDonald has been at the helm of her own fishing boat for the past four years, but has been involved in the lobster fishery for the past decade.
Born in Bar Harbor, she later moved to Blue Hill and graduated from George Stevens Academy.
After high school, she worked in boatyards before fishing one summer in Blue Hill Bay. She said she knew right away it would become her occupation. “When fishing ended that summer, I went to Stonington and got a winter fishing job,” she said.
With the recent purchase of a 32’ Holland, the Hello Darlin’ II, McDonald fishes in Stonington with 400 traps.
When she’s not fishing, she said, she’s thinking about fishing. When she’s not thinking of fishing, she’s vacationing—somewhere where there is fishing. In her “off time” she lobster boat races with her husband Cory. It’s a lifestyle, she says; she eats, sleeps and breathes fishing and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
McDonald will never mince words, is feisty at times, can often be outspoken, but is sincere in her love of the fishing industry. “I attended industry meetings for years and I just listened,” she said in a recent interview. “But, when I bought my first boat I became a stakeholder and an active participant. I started to speak up as I started to learn more, and now I want to share that knowledge.”
At 32 years old, and relying on fishing as her primary income, she, more than ever wants to know “what is coming” in respect to policy and regulation. “I think that regulation should have industry input,” she said.
With a 2014 appointment to the Lobster Advisory Council as the Downeast region representative, McDonald is charting a course to that end. The first woman to be appointed to that board, it’s an honor that she was humbled to have received. It also gets her one step closer to becoming involved in the policy side of the industry—a direction she feels is a natural fit for her.
She said she sees her future in the industry as one that fosters communication between fishermen and policy makers. As the administrator of two online social media forums aimed at promoting the fisheries, McDonald has already begun to facilitate that kind of communication. The Facebook group Fishermen Supporting a Stronger Industry has close to 2,000 members and allows for the regular exchange of fisheries-related news across the country and into Canada.
“It used to be that you’d talk to fishermen in your own harbor and it was limited to where the VHF range would take you,” she said. Now, via social media, fishermen “can communicate with policy makers and share their views with the people who can actually make that change.”
McDonald will continue to fish, but as she eases into the world of policy she hopes others will follow. “It is important for young fishermen to be involved in the industry,” she said. “It’s our future; we need to be active participants.”