RESEARCHER OF THE MONTH
Meet Dr. María Andrée López Gómez, OFI Module I Post-doctoral Fellow
by Dr. María Andrée López Gómez
We are making our best efforts to understand the experiences of different people in NL with regards to access to work in the fishery. Listening carefully to the people who live in the coastal communities that are affected by fisheries management decisions is important and has potential to shape policies that can create sustainable livelihoods.
©María Andrée López Gómez
I am postdoctoral fellow at the Sociology Department at MUN/OFI investigating which factors play a role in recruitment, training and retention of people into small-scale fisheries in Newfoundland. I like to combine my background in Public Health (MPH), Sociology and Demography (MA) and Occupational Health (PhD) to study how policies impact work and workers. I have experience conducting occupational health and labour studies using survey data, qualitative data and large population administrative datasets. These studies have focused on workers’ populations in Spain, the US and Canada focused on nurses, patient care assistants, commercial drivers, fish harvesters and the general population.
What is your research about? What are you currently working on?
My research focuses on identifying which factors and dynamics are involved in recruitment, training and retention of people in small-scale fisheries in Newfoundland. We are doing this by documenting experiences and understandings of fish harvesters, new entrants and potential entrants related to recruitment training and retention in the fisheries. We launched an online survey on November 2020 and we recently closed with 359 respondents. We are also conducting interviews to understand more in depth the experiences of people who work or want to work in the fish harvesting sector. We have also mapped the policies in the last 30 years that have contributed to the restructuring of the fishery. We hope that this study will inform us how governance and socio-ecological changes have shaped the way people enter the fishery and remain in the fishery.
What drew you to explore this topic originally?
As an Occupational Health Epidemiologist, I have always been interested in how work impacts health and well-being, not only through physical exposures but also through policies that impact structural (social and physical) aspects of work. During my PhD, I analyzed how the economic recession in Spain affected employment and unemployment later in life and as a result disability and mortality rates. Working with Dr. Nicole Power on recruitment, training and retention issues in the fisheries sector in Newfoundland I have the opportunity to investigate how policy and socio-ecological changes have an impact on workers. This draws my work closer to use research as a tool for policy in a context where policymakers are increasingly seeking more advice on the socio-economic consequences of fisheries management. I hope that the work we do in Module I-2 brings more understanding about the intended and unintended consequences that policies have on coastal livelihoods.
What is the most interesting aspect of your research? Share something you have discovered through your research so far.
Nowadays, it is very difficult to own a fishing enterprise, the cost of an enterprise can be very expensive. Inshore fish harvesters have the option to sell their enterprise at high prices, but this may conflict with a preference for their enterprise to stay in their family or their community.
How does your research address present day fisheries issues in Newfoundland and Labrador and elsewhere? How does it help inform governance responses for coastal communities in the province in a context of change?
Despite ongoing downsizing initiatives in the industry and ecological decline, small-scale fisheries continue to play a key role in job and wealth generation in coastal communities in NL. However, reduced employment options in coastal communities, barriers in intergenerational transfer of fishing enterprises, and youth outmigration pose real challenges for coastal communities. Understanding the paths that people take to enter fisheries work and the obstacles they encounter as well as any facilitators is important to develop policies that enable recruitment and sustainable retention in small-scale fisheries.
What is the one thing you would like the general public to know about your research?
We are making our best efforts to understand the experiences of different people in NL with regards to access to work in the fishery. Listening carefully to the people who live in the coastal communities that are affected by fisheries management decisions is important and has potential to shape policies that can create sustainable livelihoods. This is important in a context where the new Fisheries Act underscores the need of considering social, cultural and economic factors when making fisheries management decisions.
What are the next steps and what do you want to achieve with your research?
I am looking forward to analyze the data from our fish harvesters’ survey and from interviews. I want to understand trends and hopefully provide not only academic communications about our results, but also policy briefs that can inform policy-makers and fisheries stakeholders about recruitment, training and retention in small-scale fisheries in NL.
What do you like doing when you are not working on research?
I love biking and bike mechanics. I bike in all seasons. It’s empowering and fun to climb hills and then glide downhill fast with (hopefully) full control on the bike. I volunteer with Ordinary Spokes, a DIY bike repair organization in St. John’s and I also like doing maintenance on my bikes at home.
Written by Dr. María Andrée López Gómez
Dr. María Andrée López Gómez is a postdoctoral fellow in the Sociology Department at Memorial University, funded by the Ocean Frontier Institute. She works in sub-module I-2 investigating issues of recruitment, training and retention of people into small-scale fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador. As an Occupational Health Epidemiologist, María has worked doing research on labour market policies and organizational policies and how they impact workers’ health and well-being outcomes.