Lone female crew member to cherish experience

Lupe Meitakui He’Ofa with (L-R) Vilisoni Tarabe of WWF Pacific, Malakai Matanisiga of FMA and fellow seafearer Patrick. Picture: WWF-Pacific/SUPPLIED

WOMEN can also do well in this industry that is dominated by men.

This are the words of Lupe Meitakui He’Ofa who recently graduated from the Fiji National University’s (FNU), Fiji Maritime Academy (FMA) Stage 1 theoretical course of the Deck Hand Fishing Programme.

Ms He’Ofa who said nothing is impossible if one is willing will cherish the experience of being the first female crew member on board a fishing vessel as she currently serves a 12-month practical onboard a Solander (Pacific) Limited fishing vessel.

The 19-year-old said the Basic Sea Safety, Basic Sea Survival Techniques, Firefighting and First Aid training she received during the theoretical course enabled her to be confident out at sea during her attachment.

“Definitely, the Deck Hand Fishing Programme prepared me for my practical,” she said.

“What I understand is that, current experienced seafarers all learned on the job. I was fortunate to get theory training in a classroom before joining the workforce.”

“So prior to joining Solander V, I had fair knowledge on what was expected of me as a deck hand apprentice.”

According to the Solander V skipper, Captain Sesoni Vinakailoma, this was the first time the vessel had a female crew member.

Ms He’Ofa said the bycatch module of the programme, which addresses the need for greater awareness and education on sustainable offshore fishing practices, made her conscious of the need to protect endangered species out at sea.

“The bycatch training that was part of the Deck Hand Fishing Programme, also allowed me to build my capacity in terms of how to mitigate bycatch caught whilst we were out at sea,” He’Ofa said.

“We went through the module at FMA and then on my practical, I knew the processes of mitigating bycatch.”

He’Ofa and the crew of Solander V recently berthed after a 19-day fishing expedition.

She highlighted that despite being part of a male-dominated working environment, she was confident that females could succeed in any field through hard work and determination.

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