Ben Pierce is the co-founder of Young Fish, a networking group for young people (under 35) involved in all parts of our seafood industry, from fishing and marine farming, to seafood processing, marketing and science.​ The following is written from his personal perspective.
Last week’s Aquaculture New Zealand conference saw hundreds of delegates head to Nelson to discuss the future of our aquaculture industry. It was a few days packed full of energy, excitement, learning and networking opportunities, which I hope becomes the catalyst for more amazing work in the coming months.

Last week also marked a major milestone for Young Fish, with more than 40 young people joining us at the Moananui blue economy cluster headquarters to celebrate one year since we held our first event and introduced the concept of a youth network to our industry.

For myself, having been the driving force behind Young Fish, last week’s event was an opportunity to sit back and soak up the enthusiasm radiating from the room, while reflecting on the progress we’ve made in a remarkable year!

This work started with the creation of the Young Fish branding, our website and our social media. This provided a recognisable platform to grow the network and gain some traction. This sleek new branding made our vision feel so much more real and it felt there was truly something there to be excited about, and the reaction from within the industry spoke for itself.

Since then, it’s all been a blur! We’ve hosted eight networking events across the country, from Twizel to Auckland, attended careers days and spoken to Marlborough Boys College. Along the way, we’ve amassed a network of more than 140 people and counting, with a diverse mix of fishers, marine farmers, foodies, scientists, lawyers and students. It’s this diversity of connections where I believe the true value of our work is found.

I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to those who’ve helped make this happen. FirstMate, the NZ Federation of Commercial Fishermen, Aquaculture New Zealand, Seafood New Zealand, Moananui and the countless companies that have contributed to date, thank you.

So, what is on the horizon for Young Fish?
We’re working towards three core objectives:

  • Attracting young people to the sector
  • Building social and professional relationships
  • Developing our young people to help them progress their careers

To do this we’ll be attending public events, universities and schools, and we’ll be further developing our social media presence, to share our stories and raise awareness of the opportunities in our sector.

We’ll continue to organise regional Young Fish events, with a goal to reach more new fishing ports in the coming months. Finally, we’ll aim to provide development opportunities such as maritime training, leadership training, and skills development, and there’s certainly more to come. We will be pulling together a small committee to help deliver these outcomes, so stay tuned as this could be a great opportunity for the young people in your organisation.

The most rewarding part of the Young Fish journey so far is when my peers reach out to share just how much Young Fish has helped them, and to watch them grow in their own careers. These people are my reason why, and these people are the future of our industry.

Find us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or via our website to stay up to date. Look forward to seeing you soon.

Ngā mihi