Fisheries Director Katie Schleit.

Welcome to our Q & A series with staff, meant to help you get to know us better! Katie Schleit is Fisheries Director for Oceans North and focuses on rebuilding fish stocks while integrating the needs of people and the ecosystem. She earned a master’s degree in marine affairs from the University of Washington in Seattle and is based in Halifax.

Q: How long have you worked for Oceans North and what does your job entail?

I started work here in January 2019. My job involves lots of meetings, and reading and writing policy recommendations that support sustainable fisheries based on science. It also involves constant dialogue with all kinds of people involved in fisheries.

Q: Describe your job in three words.

Talking About Fish (This is how my 5-year-old daughter explains what I do at work!)

Q: What do you like most about your job? What are the biggest challenges?

What I like about my work is finding common ground with different people. I enjoy the team I work with, and being part of a mission-driven organization. I like bringing the voice of conservation to fisheries management and thinking long term about the needs of species and communities, since others at the table often have to be more concerned about economics and jobs.

But we’re facing a big crisis with climate change and sometimes that feels more difficult than hopeful.  A lot of fish stocks are in decline as a result of overfishing, ecosystem change and other factors, which makes for difficult conversations. At the same time, there are some strides being made towards ensuring that future management decisions will consider climate change, which should help those who rely on fisheries weather the storms. I attended the most recent Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) meeting last month, and the parties agreed—for the first time, and co-sponsored by Canada—on a resolution to address the impacts of climate change on fisheries, as well as to expand the work on developing precautionary and ecosystem approaches to fisheries management.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I like spending time with my family, especially anything to do with water, such as going to the beach, swimming or paddle boarding. We also enjoy going to local cultural events. My daughter has never met a street festival she didn’t like! We went to a kite festival recently and had a good time even though we never managed to fly a kite.

Q: Where is home?

Halifax is home. I was born in Bermuda where my parents had moved for work. We moved to southwest Nova Scotia when I was four years old and I spent my childhood there. I also lived in the U.S. at various points, where I attended high school, university and grad school. I moved back to Nova Scotia from Washington, D.C. where I’d worked in marine policy. I wanted a job supporting sustainable fisheries that included a community component.

Q: What is something surprising about you?

I’m a long distance outdoor swimmer! I was a competitive swimmer in high school, and then during grad school in Seattle I trained for a triathlon. But I don’t like running or biking competitively, so I decided to try long distance swimming. I’ve done the “Escape from Alcatraz” swim in San Francisco where you jump off a boat into the bay next to Alcatraz (a famous former federal prison) and swim about 3 kilometres back to shore. And others as well, like “The Big Swim” from New Brunswick to P.E.I, which was about 15 kilometres.

Q: Where do you find inspiration for the long haul?

There’s much more willingness now from government and industry to come to the table with conservation groups in Atlantic Canada than there was 10 years ago. It’s nice to see more openness to different groups and voices.

I also find inspiration from traveling and seeing the world, having spent my twenties traveling and working all over the world. I now enjoy exploring places near where we live with my partner and our daughter and our 18-pound mini labradoodle. They’re always excited about what a new day brings.

Ruth Teichroeb is a regular contributor to Oceans North and is former communications director. She lives in Sidney, B.C.

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