Two gender and fisheries events in 2016: plan to attend

Family seaweed farming, West Papua, Indonesia. Photo: IFAD.

Family seaweed farming, West Papua, Indonesia. Photo: IFAD.

6th GLOBAL SYMPOSIUM ON GENDER IN AQUACULTURE AND FISHERIES3-7 August 2016, Bangkok, Thailand @ 11th Asian Fisheries & Aquaculture Forum, Asian Fisheries Society.

Registration now open! Registration link.

IIFET 2016 Special Session: “Gender Research as a New Frontier in Fisheries and Aquaculture Economics” at the IIFET 2016 conference in Aberdeen, Scotland ( – 12-15 July, 2016.

GAF6: Call for abstracts, registration

1444189934_inland10Registration is open for the 11th Asian Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum (11AFAF), to be held in Bangkok, Thailand from 3-7 August 2016. During this Forum, the 6th Global Symposium on Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries (GAF6) will be held.

Register now for GAF6 and submit abstracts through the main 11AFAF website – 11AFAF.

Taking advantage of the location of 11AFAF and the lead partners, the overall theme is: ASEAN Seafood for the World & Asian Food Security for the World.

Preliminary GAF6 themes can be found here

New working group “Gendered Seas“ studies the role of women in fisheries over time

Kathleen_Schwerdtner-Manez_100px (1)By Kathleen Schwerdtner Mánez

As part of the European project Oceans Past Platform, a new working group on gender and fisheries history has been established. See our video introduction on Youtube.

Gendered Seas will explore the different roles and responsibilities of women and men in the exploitation and management of living marine resources over time. As most research in fisheries history has turned a blind eye on women, our working group fills a major gap in the understanding of fisheries systems and their development. Watch the video to find out more about our us, or contact me directly: kathleen.schwerdtner(at)

Fishing out the Invisible

Women collecting oysters cultivated in the Qualidia Lagoon, Morocco. Photo: Giuseppe Bizzari, FAO.

Women collecting oysters cultivated in the Qualidia Lagoon, Morocco. Photo: Giuseppe Bizzari, FAO.

In the August 2015 issue of Samudra Report, the journal of the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, Marie Christine Monfort describes her expedition to “fish out” what was happening for women in the fish sector. She also provides an abridged version of the recent Globefish Report, “The Role of Women in the Seafood Industry” (see our story) that was the result of her fishing expedition.

The Samudra Report article, “Fishing out the Invisible“, provides a good account of the search for facts on women’s roles and contributions, and their status in fisheries and aquaculture supply chains. It also reports on recent activities to address gender in the sector, including the work of the Asian Fisheries Society group that produces this website. Most seriously, given the economic factors that drive the fish sector and the importance of the private sector, Marie Christine could not find one private sector initiative on women’s empowerment or a corporate program that was directed at helping women.

Read the Samudra Report article here.

1-2-3: Counting the ways women access fish

Women fish processors in Sokone, Senegal. Photo: Robert Lee, FAO.

Women fish processors in Sokone, Senegal. Photo: Robert Lee, FAO.

In a recent FAO report (A Review of Women’s Access to Fish in Small Scale Fisheries), Angela Lentisco and Robert Lee have gone beyond the typical portrayal of women as fish processors and marketers have reviewed and categorized three main ways in which women access fish in small scale fisheries. First is primary access through fishing and financing/owning fishing operations; second is through close personal relationships including family; and third is through the normal purchases. By conceptualising women’s access in this more structured way, policy and action to assist women’s empowerment and equality in fish value chains can be better formulated. Angela and Robert first explored this approach in their paper resulting from their paper at the 4th Global Symposium on Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries (GAF4) – read their earlier paper here.

The report, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular 1098 can be downloaded at this link.

Abstract: Women play a critical role in every link of the value chain in small-scale fisheries, although their best-known roles are in processing and marketing of fish and other fishery products. This perception of the highly gender-segregated division of labour (men fishing / women processing) has shaped the generalized approach in supporting development initiatives for small-scale fisheries. More often than not, this approach targets men as fishers, and women as processors and marketers of fishery products. However, this generalization has also made fisheries governance blind to women’s other valuable inputs to the sector. In fact, their roles can and should go beyond postharvest and marketing. However, the lack of utilization of their additional contribution has deterred, for example, women’s participation in fisheries resource management and policy decision-making.

The present review aims to move policy attention beyond the generalized, and perhaps limited, perception of women as fish processors and marketers and in this way enhance their participation in fisheries resource management and decision-making. The study describes the different ways women have access to fish in small-scale fisheries: as primary users (when they fish by themselves or they finance fishery operations), secondary users (when they access fish through kinship or other close relationships), and tertiary users (when they use capital to buy fish directly from fishers or traders). The review provides case studies to illustrate some of the issues that tend to keep women in marginalized positions along the value chain. Factors and processes that can contribute to improve women’s participation and decision-making in small-scale fisheries, such as those that challenge conventional approaches based on traditional or “typical” gender roles and obsolete institutional arrangements, are also given. The document also discusses how participation can be improved by raising awareness on gender equality issues along the value chain through applying a gender lens, by providing appropriate support to women’s organizations, including formal recognition of their professional activities, by understanding the socioeconomic context and the particular needs of small-scale fisheries, by giving due attention to power and power relationships, and by taking greater account of the contribution of women in fisheries. As neither women nor men form homogenous groups, the challenge is even greater for women to have access to productive tools and services, which if secured can give them a greater say and control over fisheries resources, thereby increasing their social capital and financial capital. These reflections can be introduced in existing resource management arrangements such as co-management or community based management, and can probably empower women and improve their participation in fishery resource management decision-making.

The reflections in this review can and should be used as guidance and discussion material to develop interventions under the Global Assistance Programme in support of the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication.

Yemaya highlights how changes in fish trade affect the lives and labour of women

The Boring Road Crossing fish market in Patna, India. The number of women fish vendors has declined substantially. Photo: Bibha Kumar, from Yemaya 49 p. 5.

The Boring Road Crossing fish market in Patna, India. The number of women fish vendors has declined substantially. Photo: Bibha Kumar, from Yemaya 49 p. 5.

The July 2015 issue of Yemaya (from the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers) highlights the experiences of women in fish trade and support industries.  The editor, Nilanjana Biswas, concludes that the evidence is that women are being ‘ousted from local markets’, typically ending up in more dangerous, less lucrative substandard sites.

Read the Editorial and stories.

  • Perched on the brink of survival by Modesta Medard (Tanzania)
  • Receding waters, vanishing trades by Bibha Kumar (India)
  • Banking on closure by Lorna Slade (Tanzania)
  • Guatemala’s comprehensive policy on gender equality by Ramya Rajagopalan
  • A couple of champions! by Cornelia Quist (Netherlands)
  • Profile: Fisher of the year – Anna Ramirez (Bolivia)
  • Making women matter by Nilanjana Biswas
  • Q & A Interview with Lakshmi Murthy, seaweed harvester Tamil Nadu
  • Yemaya recommends: Globefish report “Role of Women in the Seafood Industry”
  • Plus Yemaya Mama (cartoon, What’s new Webby?

Download the whole issue or any individial article at here.

Building climate resilience in Laos by bringing in women

Lao women researchers. Photo: FishBio (Fisheries research, monitoring and conservation)

In other projects in Laos, women in Donexay village have become involved as researchers in the Nam Kading River of central Lao PDR. Photo and story: FISHBIO [Fisheries Research, Monitoring and Conservation] FISHBIO

Charlotte Moser worked among Lao fishers in the Sekong River basin that begins in Vietnam, traverses Lao PDR and flows into the Mekong in Cambodia. The project on which she worked, in Samakhixay and Saysettha districts of Attapeu Province in southern Laos, involved Lao PDR, World Bank and IUCN support. She reports [“Listening to Women Fishers on the Sekong River: Fostering Resilience in Village Fishery Co-Management“] that the advent of fisheries comanagement and new national laws and institutions such as the Lao Women’s Union and a flurry of activity, especially after the 1995 UN Beijing  Conference on Women, tended to stay at the national level.

What was happening at the local level along the Sekong, where men fished in the main river and its tributaries and women were seasonal fishers in the rice fields? Following the new national 2009 Guideline for Fisheries Comanagement, several comanagement fishery committees were established to oversee fisheries conservation zones. Elite men tended to be appointed to the committees (by village chiefs), thus cementing the status quo, whereas women, if in the committees, were elected and tended to be challenging the status quo. The national fishery guidelines did not mandate women’s participation.  Generally, the fisheries committees also avoid other difficult issues such as ethnicity, the deteriorating quality of the river water and its fishery resources, and the maintenance of fish conservation zones. Of 6 committees established in 2009 in the study area, the only committee to survive until 2013 was the one that had a woman member (who kept the committee records) and it was also the only one to maintain a conservation zone.

Charlotte Moser laments that, despite the calls to include women, and the good advice available as to how to do this, action on the ground often disappoints, as in this case in Laos. She reiterates the generally recommended steps needed, but does not underestimate their difficulty to implement.

Among these steps are including language in the national Fisheries Law that requires participation by women in village fishery management committees, creating incentives to allow women to develop new skills, ensuring more places in governance structures for women and providing opportunities for adaptive learning tailored to the experiences and interests of women in fishing villages.

Abstract: The accelerated economic development of landlocked Laos, combined with extreme climate variables, points to dramatic transformations in subsistence fisheries on its rivers. In the country’s first Fisheries Law, adopted in 2009, co-management of village fisheries is required as a way to promote sustainable development at a local level. The co-management model, however, does not stipulate participation by women fishers, important stakeholders who make up almost one-half of all Lao fishers and whose work contributes directly to family nutrition and well-being. Based on fieldwork conducted in fishing villages on the Sekong River in southern Laos in 2013, this paper takes an ecosystems approach to discuss how the country can build resilience and social cohesion into fisheries by incorporating women and their knowledge into village fishery management. In the process, the health of river ecosystems and food security will improve, while women fishers will acquire new skills to help them avoid ‘poverty traps.’

Download the paper here

Women in Solomon Islands tuna and coastal fish chains

Women selling reef fish in Solomon Islands fish market. Photo: kate Barclay.

Women selling reef fish in Solomon Islands fish market. Photo: Kate Barclay.

Women are particularly important in the key industrial tuna and coastal fish value chains in the Solomon Islands. They are active inshore fishers, critical in providing labour in the large SolTuna at Noro in Western Province, and in certain domains of local fish marketing.

A recent World Bank study [“Gender, Fisher, Trader, Processer: Towards Gender-Equitable Fisheries Management and Development in Solomon Islands” by Kate Barclay, Anne Maree Payne and Senoveva Mauli (2015)] has been synthesized by Olha Krushelnytska.

The study not only investigated the roles of women in the supply chains, but also examined the challenges for them and others making use of their labour.

In the case of the 1,000 women working for SolTuna, almost all on the processing line, the women and their employers reported several issues. The women reported on the sex segregation of jobs on the production line, in which they ended up in the lower paying jobs, lack of suitable housing, childcare, health issues, gender based violence that affected their ability to attend work at times, and low wages.

Management in the factory reported problems of high turnover and absenteeism, and lack of budgeting skills among employees.

However, even with good will, tuna processing alone is not enough to deliver on gender equality as many of the issues have deep social roots, and the industry is battling strong competition that emphasizes controlling production costs.

However, transactional sex occurs in ports, on ships and associated with factories and appears to have arisen with the growth of the fishing industry from the 1970s onwards. Judging by the summary report, more efforts are needed to address the issues

In coastal fisheries, women in the Solomon Islands are responsible for more than half the subsistence catch and are important in marketing. Women are also involved in such (low paying) traditional activities as making shell money.

Of the range of fisheries activities for women, the most lucrative is marketing of coastal fish, which is better than working on the tuna processing line or making shell money. However, men dominate (75% in the capital Honiara) the markets, in numbers, management and the overall functioning of the system.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations.

Download the summary report here