Women in aquaculture: Ragnhild Jesica Bjella
Following a knee injury Ragnhild Jesica Bjella swapped life as a chef for work as a commercial diver for Norway’s salmon-farming industry. Despite a number of close encounters with Greenland sharks, she hasn’t looked back since.
Briefly describe your career in aquaculture
I started to work as a diver last summer. After a few short-term contacts I got lucky and found a permanent job with Akva Marine Services, working as a diver, mainly servicing fish farms. I knew nothing about fish farming beforehand. I grew up in the mountains, in Hallingdal, but we used to drive past a fish farm on the way to grandfather’s house and I always wondered what it was like under the water. I now know why Norway has made so much money from fish!
What inspired you to move from a career as a chef into aquaculture?
I’d been cheffing for seven years but had a bad knee which made it increasingly painful to stand and walk around all day. The doctors suggested that I should find a new profession, so I started to think about other possibilities. I have always loved water and diving, so I thought about becoming a scuba diving instructor. I applied for Norsk Yrkesdykkerskole (NYD), the Norwegian school for professional diving, and from there I realised that aquaculture was one of the best places for a diver to find work in Norway.
Was it hard to make the transition from the kitchen to being under the sea?
No, I don’t think so. It’s more fun to be able to dive, and be on a boat at sea all day, rather than being stuck in a kitchen. I love to be by the seaside. I have spent all my summer holidays by the sea in our cabin. I do miss my friends at home, but I’m hoping to start working two weeks on, two weeks off, so I’ll be able to spend more time with them.
There have been some challenges. On my fist day on the job someone asked me to pass them a “chicken leg” – there are lots of tools with strange names and I had to learn a whole new vocabulary! I’ve also had to build my strength. To begin with my shoulders were very stiff from the work, but I’ve been to a physiotherapist and now do daily exercises to make it better and am getting stronger every day.
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