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Gender Equality in Fisheries: Myth or Reality?
Role of women in the fishery industry

Obviously, women play a large role in fishery industry despite the fact that fishing is often seen as a male activity, especially when it involves work on board fishing vessels and long absences at sea. They do fish (both on boats and without boats), sort fish, sell fish, process fish and cook fish.

According to various estimates, women accounted for about 50 percent of the workforce in fisheries and aquaculture, when the secondary elements such as processing, equipment maintenance and trading are included. 47 percent of the 120 million people who earn money directly from fishing and processing are women. In aquaculture, this figure is 70 percent.

This reliance is more significant given that the sectors support the livelihoods of approximately 10–12 percent of the world’s population and are central to global food and nutrition security.

However, there is also no doubt that roles of women in fishery industry are often invisible or unrecognized. They often face substantive challenges to engaging in and benefiting equitably from fisheries and aquaculture due to a combination of factors, especially in developing countries that are characterized by specific cultural traditions, social conventions or even laws such as property rights.

The result is women having fewer opportunities and receiving smaller returns from fisheries and aquaculture than men including lower income when being unpaid in low-valued positions. Women often have less decision-making power in fisheries, not because of a lack of qualifications but rather by reasons of invisible barriers and discrimination.

Gender Equality in Fisheries: Myth or Reality?
More than reasons of social justice

The problems faced by women in the fisheries are significant for more than reasons of social justice.

There is growing evidence that gender equality in fisheries and aquaculture can bring many potential benefits.

It is central to realizing the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to increase fish production, improve livelihoods and enhance food security, especially for the most nutritionally vulnerable populations.

Many fisheries experts believe that it is fundamentally inefficient from a development perspective to have inequities and inequalities that block different people’s engagement in, contributions to, and benefits from a sector that is so critical to poverty reduction and food security.

Addressing gender equality

It cannot be said that international decision makers, governmental and public organizations, as well as entrepreneurs underestimate the importance of gender equality in fisheries. There is sufficient number of concrete measures taken to address the issue.

The European Parliament has long championed women's important role in fishing communities, both in the EU and as part of the 'sustainable fisheries partnership agreements' with non-EU countries.

Following on from its 2014 resolution on specific actions in the common fisheries policy for developing the role of women, Parliament adopted a new resolution 'Fishers for the future'.

The paper highlights the fact that women still lack sufficient economic and social recognition for their role in fisheries, and calls on the Commission to launch initiatives to acknowledge their work, secure equal pay between genders, support female entrepreneurship and provide relevant EU funds.

Individuals in fisheries do their part in achieving gender equality.

Monica Langeland of Egersund Tral, Kathleen Offman Mathisen of Grieg Seafood and Marian Frantsen of Pelagisk Forening, all based in Bergen, Norway, have been awarded NOK 300,000 (€31,401/$34,089) in grants from Norway’s Ministry of Trade and Industry to work on a project championing gender equality in the sector.

They also contributed NOK 200,000 (€20,934/$22,736) of their own money to the project, International website IntraFish reported.

With a grant from Norway’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, three prominent women in Norway’s seafood industry will start a website about gender equality, as well as will launch an annual conference called “Women in the Sea’.

The new website provides advice and guidelines on, among other things, inclusive recruitment in a very male-dominated industry and how to achieve better gender balance in decision-making bodies.

Slow changes

Changes in gender equality are important and natural, but too slow, many experts believe.

However, all possible obstacles did not prevent the woman from leading a new fishery exhibition.

Seafood Expo Eurasia, as a new international seafood event representing the entire industry from fisheries and aquaculture to suppliers, is aimed, among other things, to provide its exhibitors and visitors with a platform to discuss new ideas and initiatives on creating a better gender balance.

Active use of international fisheries exhibitions to draw attention to the problem and find ways to solve it can help establish an equitable correspondence between the role of women and their position in fisheries.

Learn more about the role of women in the fishery industry in the interview with Anna Shelkova, Seafood Expo Eurasia show director.
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