WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Fishmonger Fiona Lewis can’t remember a time when fishing hasn’t been a part of her life.
“When I was growing up I went fishing all the time. Both of my grandfathers were obsessed with fishing and my father was obsessed with fishing,” she recalled. “I think I did my first autopsy on a fish when I was about 11.”
The owner of The District Fishwife at Union Market said her father worked actively in studying fish species in Australia and their family garage didn’t house cars, but aquariums and fisheries. It was no wonder that after all of those family fishing vacations, fish autopsies, and family research that Lewis had the desire to work in the industry.
But 30 years ago when she began working in hospitality there were hardly any women in the seafood industry.
“There really aren’t that many women in the seafood industry and that’s changing for sure,” Lewis explained. “I’m hoping that when they see me down there working, in my rubber apron and my gumboots covered in fish guts that they just see someone who has worked hard and was lucky enough to get into an opportunity to do what they love.”
And what Lewis loves is educating her customers on sustainability issues and encouraging increased consumption of seafood for health and overall global sustainability. She is a champion of sharing information about aquaculture, which is any seafood that is farm raised, and believes if we are going to continue to enjoy fresh water seafood that we’ll have to give Mother Nature a break.
“Thankfully, the word sustainability isn’t a bad word anymore. That is something that people are actually aware of,” Lewis said. “We’ve definitely made an impact with our customers and relish new opportunities to inform the broader public of these issues we are passionate about.”
As for the impact she’s making on her industry, Lewis wants to open more doors for young women to dive into aquaculture and seafood. She says being the first female fishmonger in the District has given her a platform to encourage interest.
“One of the biggest things that I’d say to any young woman who is trying to push through and doing what they want to do is don’t give up,” Lewis said. “And you will get told that something you’ve done is no good. Don’t stop. Don’t listen to that. If you truly know that you can do something really well the negative narrative needs to be put to the wayside and ignored. Keep pushing.”