Celebrating women’s roles and contributions on World Oceans Day

The tuna industry is typically perceived as a man’s domain, but many women are actively involved in the industry.

Today on World Oceans Day, which has the theme of ‘gender and oceans’, we’re celebrating women’s contributions.

Tuna Australia reached out to several women involved in the industry to find out what makes them thrive, and how women’s perspectives and expertise can help to address skills and knowledge gaps in the seafood industry.


Heidi Walker
Owner/Managing Director, Walker Seafood Australia
7 years full-time in the industry

“I love the diversity and dealing with all the different challenges on a day to day basis. It’s been a steep learning curve, and probably being a woman that isn’t from the industry, people have been very patient with me on my journey.

“Being a woman, I bring a different perspective to our business as well, as being able to multi-task extremely well, which is a real advantage. I really enjoy talking with fish buyers and it was interesting when I first started as some of them only wanted to deal with Pavo [my husband] assuming he was in charge of everything. There is a lot more respect from men in this industry than previous corporate positions I have held.”


Joy Puglisi
Formerly of Puglisi Fisheries
36 years in the industry

“Someone once told me that any successful business needs two components: hard work and management. My husband Frank was a hard worker. And I did the management— looking after the books, paying crew, attending meetings, speaking with buyers.

“Women bring support to the industry by supporting their partners or husbands. When a man knows his wife is there looking after his family and the paperwork, his mind is more on his job during the long hours at sea.

“I’m not involved in the industry now, but my son is a fisherman and my grandson will be too. I’m happy to help the industry by sharing my experiences, which go back to the ‘80s and ‘90s, on various lobbying issues such as the catching of live bait.”


Hayley Abbott
Owner operator, Narooma Seafood Direct
20 years in the industry, after starting fishing with her Dad at 8 years old

“I think women have always been a big part of the industry but were often in the background of the operations. For me, I just see myself as another member of the fishing community and enjoy the daily challenges that are thrown my way.

“When looking at the fishing industry, from the catching through to the marketing and selling of seafood products, it is ever evolving. From my experience in the retail side of the industry, I’ve found that women are more interactive and approachable with the general community. This helps to break down barriers and any assumptions the general public may have about the industry.”

Read more about Hayley’s involvement in Abbott Fisheries.


Annie Lamason
Director, Great Barrier Reef Tuna Fisheries
35 years in the industry

“My contributions were mostly behind the scenes. We had five children. I spent time looking after the children so Bob [my husband] could go fishing. When the kids were at school, I became actively involved in our shop. I ran that for many, many years. I’ve always thought that the tuna industry was a great one to be in.

“Women are bringing a whole new perspective to sales and marketing in the tuna longline industry. Women are seeing that there are niche markets so they’re labelling their own products and getting them into restaurants. Chefs now know where their fish comes from—women have done that.”


Graciella Lavalle
Director, Lavalle Fisheries and South Seas Tuna
10 years full-time in the industry

“Support from the ones I love has kept me striving to be the best I can be in an industry I’ve had to adopt and cherish even when at times the struggle was real. The struggles are what have helped me to thrive as a woman in the industry.”

“As an industry, the world of tuna has yet to notice the importance of women in the industry. A woman’s perspective could be exactly what this industry needs here locally [in Ulladulla] and also nationally as associations begin to notice the gender gap and call for women to act as part of the board of directors.

“We [women] are sensitive to environmental damage and control and we care about our oceans and the preservation of the sea and all living things, including tuna. We want to see a sustainable future for our children.”

Read more about Graciella’s experiences in the tuna industry.


Lisa Jacobsen
General Manager, Hapuku Fisheries and Prime Fish Australia
15 years in the industry

“The fishing industry is a vibrant, diverse and ever-changing world that demands business acumen, fast-paced decision making, and adaptability. There is never a dull moment.

“Women in fisheries can bring a balanced and holistic view that can navigate and combine legislation, licensing, environmental, safety, education and public relations to help create a sustainable and profitable industry.”

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