A Stonington lobsterboat captain leads an online crusade for better women’s fishing wear.
By Brian Kevin
When Genevieve Kurilec McDonald got an 8 a.m. call this March from the president of fishermen’s gear manufacturer Grundéns USA, she flashed back to December 2013.
Photographed by Jamie Mercurio
“It was winter,” remembers the 32-year-old lobsterboat captain. “I came in off the boat, I was wet and cold, and I was annoyed about it.”
As long as she’s been fishing, McDonald has had to modify her “oil gear,” the protective PVC clothing designed for fishermen — emphasis on the men. To make her jacket fit, McDonald cuts 6 inches off her sleeves, losing the neoprene cuff that keeps water from soaking a lobsterman’s undershirt. She knows women who fish in inferior children’s gear for a better fit.
So she launched a social media campaign encouraging industry titan Grundéns to design oil gear for women, and she was thrilled last fall when the company announced a women’s line in the works.
Then, this spring, McDonald — who sits on Maine’s Lobster Advisory Council — met a Grundéns rep at a trade show. When she mentioned her campaign and asked for his business card, the man refused, snapping that women were a blip in the industry and that women-friendly gear was never going to happen. When a stunned McDonald described the encounter on Facebook, her post went viral overnight, eliciting outrage and support from hundreds of women fishermen worldwide.
Mike Jackson, Grundéns USA president, called McDonald at 4 a.m. his time to apologize for the rogue (and since dismissed) rep. His behavior, Jackson assured McDonald, “is not how this company rolls.” Grundéns line for women, he promised, will debut in November.
“He was awesome,” says McDonald, who was amazed by the online response. The exec also got her measurements and said to watch the mail: the first prototype of a women’s PVC jacket was on the way.