Case Study: Tricia Lovell and Becoming the Acting Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Division, Antigua and Barbuda

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us

Download as PDF |  View all case studies

“The field of ocean science is constantly changing and to be relevant and current and at
the top of your game, you have to constantly seek opportunities to learn.”

Tricia Lovell, Acting Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Division, Antigua and Barbuda

Tricia Lovell conducting seagrass monitoring in Antigua and Barbuda
Photo credit: Gregg Moore, SeagrassNet

Background

Tricia Lovell is the Acting Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer at the Fisheries Division of Antigua and Barbuda, an island in the Caribbean. In Lovell’s work, she looks at fisheries issues as well as those related to the marine ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, environmental education and outreach, CITES and coastal zone management. She also serves as the National focal to the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST), and the marine and coastal focal point to the Convention on Biodiversity.

Lovell completed her bachelor’s in biology and maths at the University of the West Indies, Barbados, and her master’s in marine management at Dalhousie University, Canada. She has also taken part in shorter-term professional development opportunities, such as the three-month International Ocean Institute (IOI)¹ training programme on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, at Dalhousie University, as well as fellowships at the UN through the Nippon Foundation², and the United Nations Fisheries Training Programme in Iceland among others. Lovell began at the Fisheries Division in 1998 as a fisheries officer, and has remained there, taking on more senior roles.

While growing up on Antigua and Barbuda, Lovell participated in marine biology-related programmes along the coast, put on by the local library, which sparked her interest in biology and ocean science. She attributes her success to gaining international scholarships that allowed her to complete her education, and to an important mentor who was Lovell’s supervisor when she started working for the Fisheries Division, and whom Lovell says encouraged her employees to learn and pushed everyone equally to succeed.

Lovell explains that significant barriers exist in the Caribbean to women entering and having success in her field. Barriers include a lack of employment opportunities and cultural expectations about the kinds of jobs held by women and men. To succeed, Lovell offers to the next generation this advice: find your passion, constantly seek opportunities to learn and find good role models.

Path to success

Q: What is your background and your path that lead you to where you are today?

The public library used to have these summer programmes when I was growing up, and some of them would offer the kids the opportunity to go out in the field and experience different things. I found I gravitated to things that required me to be out in the field.
My background is in natural sciences. I did my undergraduate degree in biology and mathematics at the University of the West Indies. I focused on things that I liked. I liked biology mostly because it took us out of the classroom setting to experience different things, and a lot of those things on an island are in the coastal environment.

When I finished school and came back to Antigua, I lectured part-time at the First Year University Programme at the Antigua State College and continued to do so even after getting a full time job at the Fisheries Division. After my first year at the State college, I was contacted and told there was an opening at the Fisheries Division, and that’s how I ended up applying. What I liked about fisheries at the time was that it was being led by a woman, and she was a very good role model and a strong woman, very direct. She always gave us opportunities and freedom. We were able to have the flexibility to run our own programmes. She also encouraged us quite a bit to keep seeking opportunities for learning.

Q: What helped you succeed?

I think a lot of it was some of the strong women I was exposed to at secondary school all the way up to university. Once I was working in the Fisheries Division, I got the opportunity to go to a lot of different programmes and courses. I was able to meet Elisabeth Mann Borgese, “Mother of the Ocean,” which was the highlight of my life to this point, at the IOI programme [at Dalhousie University, Canada]. Borgese was instrumental in the law of the sea process.³

I constantly try to keep myself updated on changes in the field. I’ve taken advantage of a lot of training opportunities as a result: the IOI programme, fellowships at the UN through the Nippon Foundation, training on the Law of the Sea, training on CITES. We’re a fisheries department but our mandate is so much broader. We deal with issues like CITES listings, coastal zone management, etc. To be able to fit in any role, I ended up becoming a generalist, having a lot of knowledge of a lot of different things because of the nature of the work.

Barriers overcome

Q: What barriers have you overcome to become a woman ocean leader?

I’ve been very lucky. If I had to pay my own way through school, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My mother definitely couldn’t afford to send me to my master’s in Canada. I’ve been lucky in that respect: I’ve been able to get scholarships and fellowships and funding to do my education. Those were the opportunities that were available to me that I’m grateful for. I’ve been able to find great opportunities and capitalise on those.

Caribbean culture is very male-centric. When you go into a meeting setting, you’re looking at a lot of men. Sometimes they can be dismissive of the female in the room. A lot of our leaders and politicians are males. You have to be strong so you’re not lost in the conversation.

Q: What barriers exist in the region to women entering and staying in your field?

One of the things that’s striking, particularly in the life sciences, is there’s an imbalance, a higher enrolment of females than males at the university campuses across the region, but sometimes it doesn’t necessarily mean that the imbalance is evident in the workforce. In fisheries, and probably in fisheries across the region, you’ll see more men.

In my department, we don’t have a lot of people who are technically focused on fisheries. They come at it from different perspectives. My path grounded me in the marine sciences. When I was in school, fisheries was not apparent as a viable career option in the Caribbean. In fact I don’t think it would have even been on the average student’s radar, and certainly not on mine.

Fisheries, and marine science more broadly, offer limited opportunities for employment in Antigua and Barbuda. We do not have major research labs and at the time that I was searching for higher educational opportunities, there was no full university on the island. As a result, I was only able to complete my first year of university at the local state college before moving on to the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies. The options were limited to teaching or working in the government service. The lack of a university on the island also meant we were forced to look outside Antigua and sometimes outside the region for educational opportunities, which would have been out of reach financially for me without the assistance of scholarships and grants. Luckily, I was successful in receiving a government grant for my undergraduate degree and a scholarship for my master’s as well as a number of other fellowships along the way.

Tricia Lovell giving a World Wetlands Day lecture to primary school students in Antigua and Barbuda
Photo credit: Fisheries Division of Antigua and Barbuda

Key lessons learnt

Q: What do women need to succeed as ocean leaders in your region?

You need to have a certain amount of strength, and you need to make sure you’re backing up your strength with information, and this applies to everyone. If you’re going to be discussing an issue, you need to demonstrate you know what you’re talking about.

A lone female voice might get lost. You have to go in with the facts and information. Be prepared to back up whatever you’re presenting. That is the approach I take: be strong and stand your ground. That’s the same thing I admired about my former boss. She didn’t allow anyone to walk over her.

Advice for the next generation

Find your passion

I took the path that I took based on the things I like. If you don’t have the passion, then you can easily get lost, or you won’t capitalise on opportunities to continue to learn. If you’re not interested, you won’t do the work needed to succeed. Make sure you follow the path that creates excitement for you.

Constantly seek opportunities to learn

Recognise that learning never stops. The field of ocean sciences is constantly changing and, to be relevant and current and at the top of your game, you have to constantly seek opportunities to learn. Go into every situation with an open mind; there’s always something new that can be learnt. Particularly when you’re coming from a society where a lot of the leadership is still very male-dominated, you have to make sure you are on top of knowledge and information so that your voice is not drowned by others.

Find good role models

I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of strong women around me, both personally and professionally, who’ve been able to encourage me.

Endnotes

1 http://internationaloceaninstitute.dal.ca/

2 https://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/en/

3 https://www.dal.ca/about-dal/dalhousie-originals/elisabethmann-borgese.html

 

Download as PDF |  View all case studies

New Caribbean centre for oceanography, blue economy welcomed

The Commonwealth Secretary-General has welcomed plans to establish a new Centre of Excellence in Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the University of West Indies Five Islands Campus in Antigua and Barbuda.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, which co-chairs the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, the University of the West Indies and the Association of Commonwealth Universities agreed to work together towards this goal, with a memorandum of understanding signed today.

The Centre will aim to advance intellectual progress and strengthen institutional capacity in the areas of marine science and the blue economy for the Caribbean region.

Signed by Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies Hilary Beckles and Chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities Ed Byrne, the MoU also allows the three parties to develop joint research, training and capacity-building programmes, as well as share academic and educational content.

Hailing the initiative, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is co-champion of the Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy, and the bold initiative of developing a Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy…will build in new ways on this commendable commitment.

“This new Centre of Excellence will be a fresh expression of our longstanding Commonwealth concern for the environment, including our ocean, and the clarion call to action made in the Langkawi Declaration on the Environment from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as long ago as 1989.”

She stressed the Commonwealth Secretariat’s “wholehearted support”, adding: “I welcome the new opportunities for Commonwealth cooperation which the Centre will open up and mobilise – particularly for our young people.”

As part of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Antigua and Barbuda (alongside Kenya) co-champions member-driven actions that encourage better stewardship of the ocean’s ‘blue resources’ and marine environment.

Launched in 2018, the Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment by leaders of the organisation’s 54 member countries to actively collaborate on solving ocean-related challenges.

Antigua & Barbuda to co-champion blue economy action for the Commonwealth

The Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has stepped forward to co-champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on the sustainable blue economy, alongside the current champion country, Kenya.

As a new co-champion, Antigua and Barbuda will work with Kenya, as well as the other action group members, to cooperatively develop sustainable blue economy strategies across Commonwealth countries, covering more than a third of the world’s coastal waters.

Blue Economy

The aim of a ‘blue’ economy is to support the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods, while protecting ocean health.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “It is very encouraging that Antigua and Barbuda, a ‘large ocean state’, has stepped forward to co-champion the sustainable stewardship of our vast ‘blue wealth’. This welcome milestone demonstrates the commitment of Commonwealth countries to leveraging ocean resources wisely, sustainably and responsibly, while tackling unemployment, food insecurity and poverty.

“In this regard, the Commonwealth Blue Charter is one of the most effective platforms for countries to proactively collaborate across borders to tackle shared ocean challenges.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of the Blue Economy, Dean Jonas said: “We commend the Commonwealth on its development of the Blue Charter and in championing work on the sustainable blue economy.

“Antigua and Barbuda has long had a special relationship with the oceans.  We are, however, keen to understand more about the potential of our oceans as an economic growth area as well as balance this with protecting and promoting the health of our oceans. Antigua and Barbuda is committed to being an active member of this action group working alongside Kenya and all states who are members of this group.”

Prof. Micheni Japhet Ntiba, Principal Secretary for the State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy in Kenya added: “Kenya is very pleased to be able to welcome Antigua and Barbuda as a co-Champion. Kenya has long recognised the necessity to work together to build strong and resilient blue economies.  We look forward to working with Antigua and Barbuda moving forward.”

Commonwealth Blue Charter

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment made by leaders of all 54 member countries to work together in tackling ocean challenges and fulfilling global commitments on ocean sustainability. It was endorsed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, UK in April 2018.

Ten Action Groups, led by 14 countries, implement the Commonwealth Blue Charter, each focusing on a different ocean challenge, from marine pollution to climate change.

The Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy encourages better stewardship of ocean resources through actions such as sharing strategies and best practices, promoting green and blue innovative technologies, and financial instruments such as blue bonds and blue carbon credits. The group also seeks to empower coastal communities economically, while building their resilience to future shocks.