In this episode of Ocean, our team is interested in fish skins that can be useful in the manufacture of leather goods or fashion accessories. A resource that abounds on the French Atlantic face.
This edition of Ocean also takes a look at an almost exclusively female Greek aquaculture company demonstrating great innovation; the female sex being under-represented in the maritime industry.
Locally produced and tanned fish leather
Aquitaine, a coastal region in the south-west of France, is known for its sand dunes, its Bordeaux wines, as well as for its delicious seafood products. Thanks to its immense Atlantic coast, the territory lives from industry. fishing, and its inhabitants eat a lot of fish there.
So much so that Marielle Philip, in her twenties, decided to take up a Nordic method, learned from her mother, which consists of producing fish leather.
“There is a lot of fish that is eaten. There is also breeding, especially trout fish farming. So why not recover the waste from this sector, the skins, and transform them into leather?“asked the young entrepreneur, who finds her raw material at local fishmongers.
To the Aiguillon fish marketin Arcachon, customers regularly ask sellers for the skin to be removed “because they don’t always eat it“says Maïder Taudin, fishmonger in this business.
“It’s something that goes in the trash, we don’t do anything with it” she continues.
A cheap raw material for Marielle, who can thus ensure production in her workshop at a lower cost. But the process of creating his company’s leather, Close Navy Skinis quite long.
“It takes about two weeks from when you have raw skin to when you have colored, finished skin. It will go through a succession of baths“ she explains.
“The tanning bath, then color baths and then the hides will be mechanically worked, ie flattened and stretched, to be able to give them flexibility and then a certain finesse. In the process, we use shredded plants, so we don’t use chemicals, so it’s still quite virtuous“.
“It’s the same as classic leather. The only difference is that on it we have a pattern, we have a pattern of scales. So, in the same way, in fact, as ostrich leather, it has a pattern, the crocodile has scales, the snake – so we’re going to be in this range where we call exotic leathers“ she explains.
Waste recovery supported by the EU
This innovative method receives support from the European Fund for the Sea, Fisheries and Aquaculture, allowing Marielle’s company to develop its “marine leather” and supply it to small local manufacturers, such as Karine Coutière, artisan Pas Kap brand leather.
“Baby shoes, women’s shoes, card holder, luggage, handbag, small clutch, bracelet, key ring, c’est à l’infini” enumerates the shopkeeper.
“I find that fish skin has this precious and original side, while being very respectful of the environment. I am proud to work with this raw material, very proud !” she rejoiced.
A female, eco-responsible aquaculture company
In Europe, they represent less than 4% of fishing vessel manpower and less than a quarter of human resources in aquaculture. An under-representation that does not prevent them from standing out.
On the Greek island of Kefalonia, a women-run aquaculture company has gone against the grain. At the head of Fisheries of Kefalonia since the late 1990s, Lara Barazi-Geroulanou multiplied by thirty the production of his company, while respecting the environment. She breeds bass and sea bream in floating cages for customers around the world.
“The majority of our management team is made up of women: we have fantastic women in our research and development department, in our sales, in our quality control, in our human resources department.” she is satisfied.
“I think we are all women, except in two departments” of the company.
While men tend to perform more physical tasks, such as feeding fish or diving to inspect nets, women play a key role in management and administration. The company welcomes this, as it is easier to reconcile work and family obligations.
“We are very flexible in terms of maternity leave and remote working. If someone says to me, listen, I have to leave a little earlier because I have to pick up my child and then I’ll work maybe a little later or on the weekend – that’s fine with me.“explains Lara Barazi-Goulanou.
Katerina Katsika has been caring for fish in cages for more than thirty years, and the sometimes difficult climatic conditions do not discourage her.
“In winter, it is very cold and the sea is rough, but I think women who choose this type of work appreciate it. It’s nice to work so close to nature, when you love the sea. I don’t think they see a problem there, they like it!“ she indicates.
Fish health is his responsibility. In his service, one million specimens are vaccinated against diseases every year.
“Some tasks do require physical strength, but not all, so not all jobs here are “manly”. A woman can do just as well!“explains Adelaida Katerelou, Ichthyologist, in the midst of a vaccination operation.
Ongoing research is an important part of aquaculture. Production is based on the hatchery which is both a laboratory and a farm.
Evi Abatzidou runs the hatchery at Kefalonia Fisheries. Together with her colleagues, she oversees the selection of broodstock and monitors the growth of fish – from tiny eggs to larvae and juveniles. The fish remain in the hatchery until they are large enough to transfer to sea cages.
“We select the best fish – those that grow fast and are in better shape.” explains Evi Abatzidou, Head of Hatcheries and Research & Development at Kefalonia Fisheries.
“We use them to parent the next generation. Hatchery procedures are very scientific – they have to be very precise, and the work has to be very thorough. Women are very good at this” she points out.
Raising girls’ awareness of sea trades
The women of this company also ensure the quality control of the fish, its processing and its final packaging.
I’Greek Organization of Aquaculture Producers which represents 80% of the sector, organizes awareness projects for young women. The aim is to dispel misconceptions and make them more familiar, introducing them to the career prospects in this industry.
“We are trying to introduce knowledge about aquaculture into schools. We organize seminars, we write articles on women in aquaculture and we introduce women to the different paths, the career paths that they could follow if they wanted to join this sector. It’s not just about packing up and being on the water all day, but they can be engineers, researchers, scientists, food specialists, and they can even be captains if they choose.“explains Ismini Bogdanou, director of communication and public relations of the organization.
Achieving gender equality will take time and effort – but as it evolves, fishing is managing to gradually shed its image as an all-male industry.