8th January '24

Elena Balestri

“Fishermen are real, invested and knowledgeable.”

Location: Aberdeen
Job: Senior Fisheries Policy and Science Manager, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation

With a background spanning marine ecology and biology to analysing global fisheries data at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, Elena now serves as a critical link between academic science, governance and on-the-ground fishing reality.

She translates complex scientific concepts into pragmatic guidance for policymakers and fishers alike. Whether discussing conservation policies or catch advice with government representatives or crew members, Elena ensures all parties can engage in constructive dialogue on equal footing.

While proud of contributing to long-running international fisheries projects earlier in her career, Elena finds her current role most rewarding on a personal level. "I moved my whole life and adapted to a new way of living and thinking," she explains, "Am I happy with the job I'm doing? I wouldn't know, I mean, I'm not the person to do that. I don't stop to score what I'm doing."

In recent years, Elena has witnessed the industry landscape become increasingly politically-charged and challenging. "It feels like a targeted and focused campaign against the fishermen,” she says regarding pressure from environmental groups and shifting political winds. “The frustration of unjustified hurdles can sometimes get the better of you.”

Still, connecting with the passion and commitment of multi-generational fishing families motivates her. “I love the way they look at things, they are tough, smart people because of course they do go out there making decisions in a split second, never questioning why and never losing passion. They are real, invested, and knowledgeable,” she effuses. “Despite the difficulties they face, both at sea, on the fishing grounds and ashore on the political grounds, you can see that it really is a way of being.”

When envisioning an ideal future, Elena calls for fewer sensational headlines and more pragmatic, constructive cooperation between stakeholders. She wants to empower fishermen to contribute to data collection while also building an open, solutions-oriented dialogue across all sides, and heading towards a real co-management to design more practical and potentially successful policies.

While conceding worry over unrelenting political and social headwinds, Elena chooses to stand behind fishers in helping them navigate policies. She concludes, “Despite everything, I’m personally committed to finding solutions as best I can. I believe there is a possibility for a better outcome.” Her perseverance stems from deep conviction – as Elena declares, "I couldn't do something I don't believe in.”

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