Maine women welcome a sea of opportunities

Females make up a small minority of Maine lobster fishermen. Just 4 percent of the state’s 5,171 commercial lobster licenses are held by women, a number that has remained steady for about a decade, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

And female fishermen say the numbers don’t reflect the growth they’ve witnessed.

“I’ve seen a tremendous increase in the number of women on the water,” said Genevieve Kurilec McDonald, a Stonington-based lobsterman and member of Maine’s Lobster Advisory Council. Appointed in June, she is the first female to sit on the board.

To be sure, women have always been an integral part of commercial fishing, even if they haven’t been captains of their own boats.

In fact, women now stand at the helm of major organizations that represent the industry. The Maine Lobstermen’s Association, the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association, the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association and the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative all are, or have been, led by women in recent years.

“There aren’t any obstacles to women getting into this, I think it’s just been tradition (that it’s been male-dominated),” said McDonald. “It’s the same as anything else. It doesn’t really matter what gender you are. As long as you work hard and take care of your boat and put your time in, you’ll be fine.”

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