The dream to become a commercial fisherwoman may seem odd when you consider that Alex Tucker had never seen a fish outside a supermarket before taking up her first job in fishing. After graduating high school, Alex moved eight hours away from her home town to fulfil her calling, forging a career as a highly-skilled and well-respected member of the Australian prawn trawling industry. Now based in Yamba in northern New South Wales, this gritty, resilient and salt of the Earth young woman can’t imagine life without fishing, the ocean or the opportunity to see the sunset and sunrise on any given day.
When asked what concerned Alex about the health and safety of those in the fishing industry and community, Alex highlighted the negative impact of complex regulations, job insecurity and poor public perception on the mental health of her colleagues. Alex reinforced the need to always “keep an eye on the crew”, and thoroughly enjoys playing an active role in educating the broader community about the many positive aspects of life and work in the fishing industry. Alex also emphasised the importance of trust, experience and team work whilst navigating “sticky situations at sea”.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Strong, stubborn, easy going.
Tell me something interesting about yourself...
Before working on a fishing trawler I had never been fishing or even seen a fish outside the supermarket. I grew up in the Blue Mountains and rarely saw the ocean. When I graduated high school I moved 8 hours away from home to chase my dream of being a fishermen. I had no idea what I was walking into but now I couldn’t imagine not being on the ocean and fishing every day.
What's one achievement you are most proud of?
Just getting into and being respected in the fishing industry as a first generation female has been a huge achievement for me, followed by going on to get my skipper’s ticket and being trained / trusted to run a boat.
What makes you truly happy?
Teaching other people about commercial fishing, trawlers, or boats and the ocean in general.
Seeing the sun set and rise over the ocean every day.
What do you love the most about being a rural woman?
The lifestyle. Being able to finish work at 8am and then go for a quick surf before bed or having a random bunch of days off to go camping. Something that isn’t possible with a 9-5 job.
Tell me about a time when you felt worried about your own or someone else’s health, safety or wellbeing on the farm, boat or in some other aspect of rural life.
Honestly one of my biggest fears for the safety of my fellow fishermen is their mental health, as a result of harsh new fisheries regulations, being disliked by the public and simply not having any job security.
What practical things did or could you, your partner and / or others do to prevent someone from getting hurt?
Simply keep an eye on the crew.
Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner / workers are more willing to make changes to the way work is done?
Honestly not really. The only time things are changed is after an incident.
If you could give any advice to another rural woman about work health and safety in rural industries, about influencing change in business - or just in general - what would it be?
Find a skipper and crew you can trust. You are going to find yourself in sticky situations at sea – it’s a part of the job – but if you have an experienced and trustworthy crew you won’t find yourself in any danger. Also, remember that the number one person looking out for you is you, if you feel unsafe or not confident to do something, then simply don’t do it.