Sonya cares for millions of babies

ATMI Hatchery Manager Sonya Joel, right, views zooplankton at the Ajeltake facility while USAID-funded trainee Jackhead Francis records the data. Photo: Beverly Barta.
ATMI Hatchery Manager Sonya Joel, right, views zooplankton at the Ajeltake facility while USAID-funded trainee Jackhead Francis records the data. Photo: Beverly Barta.


Sonya Joel is one of two women working for Aquaculture Technologies of the Marshall Islands, the company that oversees a fish hatchery and fish farming in Majuro.
She is the hatchery manager, and has been working for ATMI for two years after getting her start as a trainee in a National Training Council-supported program. She and Ruth Laikidrik, ATMI’s finance and grant manager, are the two women who integrate ATMI’s workforce of 20 office and field employees.
Sonya took advantage of a training opportunity with ATMI that led to her current role in overseeing hatchery operations. “I saw the training opportunity in the newspaper,” she said. “The six-month course was sponsored by the National Training Council back in 2014.”
She found she enjoyed the work in the hatchery. She was surprised by some of the jobs required in the hatchery when she was in the training course, including the need to count the fish eggs being hatched in the tanks. “I didn’t think we could do this,” she said of her initial reaction to this aspect of the training. But she learned it’s not hard. “We pour some eggs over a net, count them up, and do the math formulas we were taught in order to estimate how many eggs would be in the tank,” she said.
During the training, she “really enjoyed” the work in the hatchery. “I pay attention to the tanks and follow all the rules,” she said. The training taught her the importance of collecting data and record keeping to the hatchery and fish farming business. Sonya sees herself “learning more about this industry and becoming more responsible as ATMI grows.”
What does she enjoy about her work? “I like raising the babies,” she said. “I like the paycheck too!”
Working in an industry that has traditionally been male-dominated has been a challenge, but one she enjoys. “It can be challenging being the only girl working with all boys and men,” Sonya said. “Sometimes they don’t want to listen to me, but if they aren’t following the hatchery rules, the babies could get sick and die. Then we’d all be out of a job.”
Her advice to young women looking for an interesting job opportunity: “Just go for it.”
For women interested in learning more about commercial fish hatchery operations, ATMI is sponsoring a training for women in August. Deadline to enroll is July 14. Contact the ATMI office, 625-2864 for details.

Read more about this in the July 1, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.

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