One look at this month’s cover and two thoughts quickly come to mind.
Is that summer, really? Will we ever see it again?
And is that a woman we see working on deck in those oilskins?
Yes it is. And not just any woman.
That is Shannon Eldredge, captain of the Morgan E out of Chatham, MA, co-owner of Chatham Fish Weirs Enterprises, and clearly a woman who fishes. Hard. The real deal.
Choosing her as our cover subject for this issue was no accident.
We feel it is an appropriate follow-up to an incident that occurred at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in early March, involving a sales representative from the foul weather gear company, Grundéns, and Genevieve Kurilec McDonald, also a woman who fishes, and the administrator of a popular Facebook page called Chix Who Fish.
McDonald, while also fishing fulltime – her own boat, by the way – has been advocating for over a year now for a manufacturer to step up and respond to what she and a number of other women who fish believe is a need for foul weather gear – deck gear – specifically designed and constructed for women.
A large part of her efforts have centered on Grundéns, for obvious reasons.
Approaching the Grundéns exhibit at the forum trade show, hoping for a meaningful conversation and an update on any progress being made, McDonald was rebuffed and dismissed, swiftly and rudely by all accounts, by the sales rep manning the booth.
She recounted that experience later the same day on Facebook and it blew up.
Big time. Firestorm.
And understandably so.
Even those of us of a certain age who don’t fully comprehend or embrace social media know that it can be a powerful force. That was clearly the case here.
Grundéns had a problem – a big one, and it was getting bigger.
But, as the saying goes, it’s not the error so much, it’s how you handle it.
And Grundéns, to their credit, handled this well. Setting an example by their actions.
Within 24 hours, Mike Jackson, president of Grundéns USA, came out swinging – in the best way possible.
Here are excerpts of a letter he wrote, that was subsequently posted by McDonald on the Chix Who Fish page.
“I am extremely embarrassed by the rogue and outrageously disrespectful actions of an independent sales rep based on the East Coast. He acted on his own and his behavior is not how this company rolls.
“He is no longer representing us.
“We have a very deep respect for all women, and most expecially women who fish.
“Grundéns as a company is all about caring for those in our professional fishing community and, as such, we are actively developing gear for women right now.
(See page 26 in this issue).
“We look forward to keeping you in the loop as our product comes to market – so that you can judge it, and how we do business, directly,” Jackson concluded.
His apology and prompt, pro-active response was appreciated and well-received by McDonald and other posters on her page.
“I just had an epic conversation with Mike Jackson,” McDonald wrote, “and ladies I hope you are ready to trial some gear. Thank you for all your support and fish on.”
To anyone who knows Mike Jackson it should come as no surprise that he handled this potentially explosive situtation with poise, honesty, and swift action.
Jackson, as many of you may know, has always viewed himself as a fisherman first.
His foray into the protective clothing business began when he fell off a crab boat in the Bering Sea back in 1982 and dedicated his life to helping save and protect fellow fishermen with quality gear.
So he gets it.
Men and women who work on the water deserve and expect respect.
Manufacturers and suppliers who fail to get that message, or who think they can sell style over substance to commercial fishermen, do so at their own peril.
Kudos, we say, to Gen McDonald and her network of peers, for holding Grundéns accountable for unacceptable behavior.
And kudos again, we say, to Mike Jackson and Grundéns for stepping up and doing the right thing.
A good lesson to us all. /cfn/
Read more of the latest issue of Commercial Fisheries News.
Buy this issue or Subscribe.
(Read online immediately with access key and download for future reference.)