Women in Seafood: Dr. Minerva Arce

Dr. Minerva Arce was born in Mazatlan, Mexico in 1962. At that time Mazatlan was a coastal shrimping community and her family was involved in that fishing industry. Dr. Arce received her B.S. from the Autonomous University of Sinaloa in 1986 where she studied Fisheries Biology in the School of Marine Sciences, Mazatlan. There were only a very few women students in her program and less than 10% women students in her entire classroom.

In 1985, Dr. Arce’s first postion was at the Aquaculture Production Laboratory in Tabasco and she later pursued her M.S. in Marine Biology at CINVESTAV (The Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute) in Merida. Her studies were focused on the lobster industry. At that same time, Minerva also worked on Lake Patzcuaro, where women processed the seafood product that their husbands brought in from the lake. In 1993, she joined the Research Center of Quintana Roo, which in 1995 became a Federal Institution that is integrated to “El Colegio de la Frontera Sur” (ECOSUR). Dr. Arce is presently collaborating  on a project with a group of Mayan fisherwomen in the state of Quintana Roo. Together, these women are engaged in fishing in freshwater cenotes and lakes, and always remain close to home as to not neglect their domestic activities.

 Dr. Arce received her Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies (biology and social sciences) at Dalhousie University in Hallifax. In 2007, Dr. Arce’s Thesis won first place as Outstanding Thesis in Social Sciences, dealing with issues of “Adaptation to Climate Change in the Mayan production systems.”. Dr. Minerva Arce also held the title of  Director of ECOSUR Chetumal from 2009 to 2012. She’s currently a full professor and researcher at ECOSUR, where she teaches graduate classes in “ecological economics” and in “development, economy and ecosystems.” She also works on recreational fisheries (from Belize and Mexico) and on rights-based management.

Sea Delight: Sustainable seafood is an industry for the future. Maintaining a healthy ocean with responsibly sourced fish is simply good business. What attracted you to the seafood business?

Dr. Minerva Arce: Overall my love for fish and biology studies, especially related to their care and conservation.

SD: The seafood industry is a significant contributor to the world’s growing need for healthy sustainable food. Why is sustainability important to you?

MA: Because for me it is essential to care for the space in which we live, in this case the ocean and its products and to make sure the resources are available in the future for our own benefit.

SD:  What are some of the projects you are currently working on that will enhance the future of the seafood industry?

MA: I’m currently working on a study with the Community Conservation Research Network in coordination with St. Mary`s University about the effect of climate change, particularly in the lobster. I am also interested in how do the fishermen perceive resource abundance and what adaptation strategies are they following.

SD: The seafood industry is one of the most complex global systems in the world because it’s about feeding people. What has been your biggest challenge working in the industry in general and also addressing sustainable seafood?

MA: Trying to inform and engage decision makers to consider sustainability factors, as well as political and economic factors in their decisions.

SD: The best leaders are lifelong learners. What have you learned most recently that has made an impact on your career?

MA: I have learned the need of, and how, human societies self-organize and support each other to seek the common good. How in times of crisis, we come together to solve problems.

SD: What advice would you give other women interested in a career in the seafood industry?

MA: If they decide to enter the industry, they need to work with passion. I would advise them to study several languages and to also learn from the knowledge of local communities. Also, I would advise them to obtain more life experiences as this will help them to better understand the problems affecting the industry and be able to find better solutions.