Dr. Silvia Salas Marquez is a researcher at CINVESTAV-Mérida, focusing on the socio-economic issues in the fishery as well as the dynamics of the fleet and the behavior of the fishermen. She is currently working on aspects of risk and vulnerability.
After studying Biology in Mexico City 33 years ago, Dr. Salas Marquez went to Yucatan for a year to complete her thesis in Fisheries Biology in the business Productos Pesqueros Mexicanos de Yucalpetén. Once in Yucatan she decided to study the Master of Science in CINVESTAV. Throughout all these years she has been devoted to the study of trawl fisheries, flake, crappie and octopus.
At the beginning of her career Dr. Salas Marquez faced the constant rejection from fishermen to work with her. She was not allowed to take samples, and in general, they made it very difficult for her to conduct her activities. She once had the opportunity to be onboard a larger vessel, but in order to insure her safety, the sales manager of the company had to accompany her. During the fishing trip, the fishermen would kick her fish samples and made jokes. Thanks to her skills playing dominoes, she was able to win a carton of beer which she shared with the fishermen and it contributed to the beginning of a relationship of respect that has grown over the years (and without the need for beers today).
For some time Dr. Salas Marquez devoted herself to biological studies and creating population models. She also worked in the Sian Kaan reserve in their Environmental Education Program and Forest Extensionism. In this employment her responsibilities were linked to promoting conservation activities and by working with farmers she discovered the importance of socio-economic aspects which have marked her career.
Dr. Salas Marquez completed her PhD in Natural Resources Management and Environment at the University of British Columbia in Canada. This degree was a multidisciplinary program that included social and economic issues. Subsequently, she completed a Post-doc in Saint-Meris, Nova Scotia Hallifax conducting research on “Economic Aspects of the lobster fishery and fishing subsidies.”
Today, local fishermen recognize her as someone they trust, and with whom they can speak freely. They recognize the tremendous support Dr. Salas Marquez provides them with in solving the problems of the fisheries sector, in particular in Yucatan, and also in the Southeast region of the country.
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 in the first place?
Dr. Silvia Salas Marquez: Its complexity, which remains a promising industry and yet there is a lot of people who depend on it. The industry is very adaptive, for example, how they change from one species to another and as the actors are changing over time.
SD: The seafood industry is a significant contributor to the world’s growing need for healthy sustainable food. Why is sustainability important to you?
SS: Because it represents food, jobs, currency. Sustainability directly affects many families and fishermen and indirectly all we consume depends on these products. The importance of fishing on the peninsula dates back from the time of the Maya, as it was a very important activity for them. Fishing in Mexico is a matter of national security.
SD: What are some of the projects you are currently working on that will enhance the future of the seafood industry?
SS: Satellite Monitoring System in artisanal vessels, improving safety fishing fleet monitoring and analysis of how they are working. Collaborate in that every time we are able to get better information and with it to get better assessments of fisheries and fishery resources in Campeche, Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Tabasco.
Also in a draft comprehensive scale fishing in the Yucatan Peninsula in which both comprehensive assessments of social, biological, economic and management issues including the value chain are made.
Collaborating with information to improve how commercial diving operation in the region and thereby decreasing diving accidents is promoted.
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?
SS: As a woman it is difficult to break into a means of men. Also to ensure research contributions are transformed into decision making in the fisheries sector.
SD: The best leaders are lifelong learners. What have you learned most recently that has made an impact on your career?
SS: Participating in productive projects with fishermen will generate a different view because you open yourself to your knowledge, vision, confidence and believe this relationship generated will create spaces to keep building and providing.
SD: What advice would you give other women interested in a career in the seafood industry?
SS: Whatever it is that you dedicate yourself to, it is important that you like it so you can do your job with pleasure and passion. There will always be problems, but your passion will continue to motivate you to move ahead. If you realize at some point that you do not like this, dare to re-invent yourself. It is a privilege to do something you like.