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By Alicia Nemiccolo MacLeay '97
By the time she was 8 years old, Gillian Morejon '00 of Freeport, Maine, was helping her dad on his lobster boat: spotting the family's red and white buoys, handling the dead bait fish and learning environmental regulations as she measured lobsters to determine which could be kept. Morejon's personal knowledge of the complexities of the fishing industry is about to expand to a global level.
This fall Morejon will leave Maine for a year to travel to Chile and the Philippines for her study, "Communities of the Fishing Industry," as Colby's 51st Thomas J. Watson Fellow. "It's shocking that I was able to convince someone to give me $22,000," she said after receiving one of the 60 Watson fellowships for independent study abroad.
Morejon will spend nine months in southern Chile and three months in the Philippines to compare the management and viability of fishing industries worldwide. A Spanish and international studies double major, she spent a semester in Santiago, Chile, during her junior year. Morejon chose the Philippines as a comparison because its fishing industry is dangerously close to extinction as a means of supporting a family. She says that Maine, Chilean and Filipino fishermen all face the same dilemma trying to support a family by fishing while operating under international regulations and national governmental economic policies.
In both Chile and the Philippines Morejon will talk with fishing families about their roots, quality of life and the industry's sustainability. She'll have a unique opportunity to do firsthand primary-source research, but speaking to fishermen may be difficult. In the Philippines, Morejon may rely on a translator. In Chile language won't be the barrier; culture may be. "Chileans are pretty close-mouthed," said Morejon. "It's hard to talk to men. They have very little respect for American women."
Morejon has had to put some of her feminist beliefs on hold to understand what it's like to be a Chilean woman. She's growing her hair longer and not bleaching it this time. Initially she plans to meet Chileans through conventional women's avenues, such as visiting local schools. "The more I go at this as a traditional woman, the more I'll learn," she said. "I need to approach it in subtle ways to attack the problems."
Morejon is familiar with crossing boundaries in fishing communitieseven the one she grew up in. "I've always lived on the edge of what was normalcy in Maine," she said. Morejon's dad, a lobsterman since the age of 10, also has worked for the government as a "fish cop"a special agent for the National Marine Fisheries Service enforcing federal fishing laws. Morejon earned a scholarship to North Yarmouth Academy so she could take Spanish, which wasn't offered at Freeport High. "The boys I went to school with [in Freeport] don't believe that I have ever done a day's work," she wrote in her Watson proposal. Many of those "boys" are now lobstermen. "They don't know what to make of me," she said.
Morejon hopes Maine fishermen can benefit from what she learns in Chile and the Philippines. "I want to bring something back here, to my community, where fishing is everyone's life," she said. "I think I owe it to them."
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