'I love it': More women making a living on the water off Shelburne

Amy Woolvett amywoolvett@thecoastguard.ca
Published on January 4, 2016

Emily Swim is one of a handful of women who have made a career in lobster fishing

©Contributed photo

LOCKEPORT -Emily Swim is one of a growing number of women in Shelburne County who head out to sea in a lobster boat to work.

As a child and then teenager she remembers seeing her dad head off each day, but never believed it would one day be herself waking up in the wee hours of the morning to fish.

This is now her fourth year fishing with her father and brother and  - while the work can be labourious,  the days long and the weather vicious - she brings back to the wharf a collection of happy memories and discoveries.

“It was tough at first,” said Swim.  “But now I love it.  I can’t imagine it any other way.”

Swim came home from university with a hefty debt load that was impossible to reduce in a retail job.

She was unable to find a job in her vocation as a forestry wildlife technician and her dad suggested she start lobstering.

It was not a job she imagined she would do.

“It was a big opportunity,” she said.  “Funny when you think of jobs and know how lucky you are to have a father in the industry to hire you.”

She set out with her dad and brother, who showed her the, sometimes literal, ropes and the ins and outs of the business.

“They took care of me until I knew what I was doing,” said Swim.

Each person brings their own expertise to the table beyond the day-to-day job.

Her brother Carson Swim tackles the mechanics when things go wrong, her dad Paul Swim brings his leadership and lifetime of lobstering experience and Swim keeps the paperwork and finances in order. 

“It’s a team effort -it’s a family thing,” said Swim.

Her primary job is banding, measuring and cleaning the catch from dumping to landing day and the hard work has helped to keep her independent with no student loan in sight.

She also takes care of the business behind the scenes, tackling the tedious work on the computer to make sure things run smoothly.

When lobstering season ends her days as a fisher don’t stop.  She continues to eel throughout the spring with her dad.

While there are tough days, Swim loves to capture her adventures at sea and share them.

“There is nothing like being on the water when the sun comes up,” she said.  She photographs her dad and brother and the sometimes unusual catch that the traps bring up.

Swim’s highlight of the day is both capturing photographs when she’s not busy and hanging out with her family.

“I’m so glad I moved home,” said Swim.