PEI

P.E.I.'s female lobster captains inspire U.K. girl with autism to take up fishing

A group of women taking the helm in P.E.I.'s lobster fishery have inspired a 12-year-old girl with autism in Cornwall, England, to join the crew of a fishing boat.

Video of women in fishery give 12-year-old the confidence to join a fishing crew

Keira Mann, 12, from Cornwall, England, poses with her sister Saskia Mann, 3, and father Stuart Mann, who is very proud that his daughter loves the sea. (Submitted by Stuart Mann)

A group of women taking the helm in P.E.I.'s lobster fishery have inspired a 12-year-old girl with autism in Cornwall, England, to join the crew of a fishing boat.

Stuart Mann, 42, saw a CBC News story about female lobster boat captains and shared it with his daughter Keira.

Mann, who owns a marine company in the U.K., said his daughter wanted to go fishing, but the male-dominated harbour can be intimidating. 

"I showed her the video and that gave her the extra boost of confidence that she needed to prove that someone else was doing it out there that was female," said Mann. 

Keira shows off her catch. (Submitted by Stuart Mann)

'She's quite capable'

Keira has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, and sometimes struggles with trying new things.

"She's quite capable of doing them, it's just giving her that confidence that she doesn't have initially to do it, and I thought by showing her the video that other people in the world were doing it that it might help her," he said. 

She's quite happy to stick her hand in a drum of live bait.— Stuart Mann, Keira's father

Keira said she was "absolutely petrified" before she went on the boat for the first time — but a conversation with Bethany McCarthy, one of the lobster boat captains profiled in the CBC story, was a big help.

"I backed out. I didn't want to do it. Then I spoke to Bethany, and all of a sudden, I wanted to do it and go for it and that's when I did it," said Keira.  

Keira has autism and was nervous about going fishing, but that changed when she saw female fishermen in P.E.I. hitting the water. (Submitted by Stuart Mann)

'She's absolutely brilliant'

She's since been out on the boat fishing multiple times. Her father said he's heard good things from the crew she's working with. 

"He said any time, she's welcome, she's absolutely brilliant," Mann said.

"She picks things up. She does things without me even having to tell her to do them. She's quite happy to stick her hand in a drum of live bait or what have you."

It felt very special in a way, because I knew that not very many girls had ever done it before.- Keira Mann

Keira, who has also learned to steer the boat and read from radar, said the video was "inspirational." She had never seen a female fisherman before.

"It felt very special in a way, because I knew that not very many girls had ever done it before and I was looking to get that opportunity, and if I hadn't taken it I probably wouldn't have ever done it again," said Keira.

"It was very, like, amazing because it was someone else who liked the same passion as me."

Keira has now been out fishing multiple times. (Submited by Stuart Mann)

'A bit of a shame'

Mann said he's very proud of his daughter, and he hopes more women decide to go into the industry.

"Not many females take it up, which I think it's a bit of a shame, because I think a lot more females would like to," he said.

"It's just, especially in the U.K.... it's even classed as bad luck to have a female on your boat, so it's taken quite a bit to convince one of the skippers to take her on."

Mann sent photos of Keira's catch to McCarthy in P.E.I.

"Keira wanted to say thank you to her when she got back, because she didn't think she was going to be able to do it," said Mann.

"The one thing with Keira's condition is she's very, like, thankful to people that help her and she was really thankful for all the help that she's put in."

Keira hopes to one day become a full-time fisherman. (Submitted by Stuart Mann)

Hopes to become a fisherman

McCarthy said she was touched to receive the message. 

"I was pretty surprised when I got the message about Keira. Our video making it to another fishing community across the ocean was amazing. The thing that has stuck with me is when Keira's dad said it was with my help that Keira went out fishing.… He said, 'One video changed a life thousands of miles away, that's powerful,'" said McCarthy. 

"It makes me feel pretty good knowing a little girl now has a passion for fishing."

Our video making it to another fishing community across the ocean was amazing.- Bethany McCarthy

Mann said McCarthy continues to make a difference in his daughter's life.

"It's nice for her to have someone that has got something in common with her regarding the fishing side because … none of her friends are interested in doing it," said Mann.

"She comes to me and she goes, 'Oh, you know Dad, I've done this,' and it's like brilliant brilliant brilliant, but she still feels very isolated being a girl in that kind of industry, if you see what I mean."

Keira has learned how to prepare lobster, fillet fish, and dress crab. She hopes to keep fishing, improve her sea skills and one day become a full-time fisherman herself.

Keira fishes out of Newlyn Harbour in Cornwall. (Submitted by Stuart Mann)

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