Anita Conti, The Sea Lady.

by Elisa Routa

To be able to exploit the sea, you must enter into the sea

Anita Conti PTLS Portrait 4

Anita Conti PTLS1


Born just before the 20th century started, Anita Conti represents a piece from the past. During her teenage years, she developed a passion for books and sea and started photography in 1914. Indeed, for almost a hundred years, she has been gathering more than 40,000 photographies.


Anita was what we can call today an engaged pioneer. Recruited by French Fisheries Authorities to conduct scientific experiments at sea and to assess fish resources, she was the first french female oceanographer.


In 1939, she's been the first woman to embark in the service of the National French Navy, and, thus, became the first woman to work on a military ship in wartime. In charge of developing a new technique for fishing maps, she embarked on a trawler bound for western Africa in 1941. During 10 years, she explored the West African coasts, from the Mauritian islands to Senegal and from Guinea to Ivory Coast. She insured a resupply program for the population and the French army. Her goal was to save population from hunger and find nutritional solutions in regards of their protein deficiency.


During a decade, she travelled the world, explored the seas, documented and scientifically reported the negative effects of industrial fishing. "To be able to exploit the sea, you must enter into the sea" she used to say. Her African experience helped her to denounce the impacts of plundering the oceans and the major waste of marine resources. "Seas are under threat" she claimed. She tried to find fishing methods like fish farming to avoid overfishing.


Called "the submarine hoover" by the female pioneer, the "Bois Rosé" French trawler became her home for a few months-case study mission in 1952. "At sea, living means killing" Anita said. Animated by the desire to show the daily life of fishermen and the toughness of their work, Anita took more than 5,000 pictures during this North Atlantic trip off the coast of Canada and Greenland. 


In this way, conscious of fishing-related damages to the marine environment, Anita was a precursor of the environmental movement battling against overfishing. Described as a forward-thinking approach, "The sea lady" spent most of her life documenting the life on fishing vessels and defending a more regulated fishing activity.


Thanks to 50 years of adventures and researches at sea, throughout a strong scientific involvement, a unique poetic initiative and thousands of pictures, Anita Conti can be considered today as a role model for future generations.

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