Women must be given the opportunity to lead in order to achieve more equal and sustainable fisheries.


Women must be given the opportunity to lead in order to achieve more equal and sustainable fisheries.


In small-scale fisheries around the world, an estimated 45 million women make up about 40% of the workforce. However, when it comes to access to and use of fisheries and coastal resources, they are excluded from decision-making processes.

Women's presence and contributions to fishing communities have long been overlooked by fisheries policies, legislation, and programs, resulting in their marginalization. This has also harmed their livelihoods and exacerbated gender disparities. Women do, however, influence decisions in various fishing communities around the world. These communities boast of enhanced economic returns, more women's empowerment, and stronger claims to area-based fishing rights.

Learning from these gender-inclusive fishing communities could help more women get involved in fisheries management, which would be beneficial to everyone. Current attempts to address small-scale fisheries sustainability, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, emphasize the importance of identifying potential entry points for change.

We looked at where and how women participate in decision-making as researchers studying environmental governance, gender, and fisheries. There are just 54 studies around the globe that chronicle such fishing communities. We discovered that when women are involved in decision-making, small-scale fisheries become more fair and sustainable.

Small-scale fisheries are plagued by gender disparities.

In the fishing industry, women's roles and responsibilities are frequently different from men's. Women, for example, pick and sell seafood and seaweed in shallow waters, sometimes on foot and with just basic equipment. They also participate in large-scale seafood trading and processing.

These activities aid the women's survival and well-being, as well as the survival and well-being of their families and communities. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to engage in harvesting activities that are further away from the coast and include the use of boats and more advanced fishing gear.

Nonetheless, women's contributions and roles are sometimes overlooked in fishery statistics, and their employment is viewed as part of their family responsibilities. Fisheries managers and policymakers have a tendency to believe that all fishermen are men.

Social and cultural standards also influence what women can and cannot accomplish in the fishing industry in some areas. Access to fish auctions and markets, for example, is sometimes restricted. Their household responsibilities as wives, mothers, and carers leave them with less time to devote to their fishing jobs.

The active participation of women makes a difference.

Women play a variety of roles in decision-making, including leadership, networking, resource monitoring, and even local activism, according to our research.

Women have sway in a variety of decision-making environments, including formal laws and regulations. Indigenous Heiltsuk women on British Columbia's central coast, for example, used collective action to maintain their customary rights to enjoy the local Pacific herring fishery.

Women are also involved in various resource management systems in which communities work with local governments and other stakeholders such as non-profit organizations. Women organized associations in the Galician shellfish fishery and influenced the authorities to take decisive action and avoid the over-exploitation of shellfish.

Women have the ability to influence decisions through informal networks, social events, and ceremonies. Volunteer groups in Newfoundland and Labrador gave women affected by the cod moratorium in the 1990s a voice.

Some of these roles, but not all, allow women to actively participate in leadership roles. In Danajon Bank, Philippines, for example, women frequently attend meetings out of a sense of obligation as community members, but they have less influence over outcomes.

Gender barriers that have been institutionalized still persist.

Women have accomplished many great outcomes for themselves, their families, and their communities when given the opportunity to actively participate in fisheries management. Women's active participation in collectively managing the Arapaima fishery in the Brazilian Amazon resulted in a 77 percent increase in their income. This is in contrast to the fact that women in communities without such an agreement earn almost little money.

Women also defy social norms and traditional traditions that restrict their fishing activity. Norms like this generally stipulate where to fish, how to fish, and whether or not they need permission from the community's men. Women, however, such as Chile's artisanal fishermen, have successfully campaigned for their right to freely exploit nearshore resources.

Despite these achievements, women in several fishing communities around the world continue to confront significant obstacles, such as gendered power dynamics. Men have more control in these situations, while women are considered subordinates or aids. This is evident in the United Kingdom's small-scale fisheries.

The majority of fisheries legislation is hostile to women's participation. Indeed, some laws discriminate against women, such as the rules prohibiting women from fishing on foot and the usage of particular nets that prevent women from harvesting octopus in Madagascar.

Other pieces of legislation, such as the Mexican and Ghanaian fisheries programs, have promised to address gender issues, although they generally lack specifics.

Allow women to take the lead.

Gender concerns and inclusivity must be prioritized in planning and management processes for women to actively participate in fisheries.

Such procedures encourage women's agency and empower them. The esteem that women receive as a result of their continued contributions to decision-making can help to legitimate their representation.

We must find ways to offer the 45 million women who work in small-scale fisheries a voice as we commemorate World Oceans Day and the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture this year.

We need to understand the informal venues where women currently socialize and network in order to include them in decision-making without adding to their already heavy workloads.

Simultaneously, we must pay more attention to men's role in recognizing and supporting women's efforts in the fishing industry.

Only then will we be able to make headway toward fair and sustainable fishing.

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