Williams, S.B., A.-M. Hochet-Kibongui, C.E. Nauen (eds.), 2005.

Gender, fisheries and aquaculture: Social capital and knowledge for the transition towards sustainable use of aquatic ecosystems. / Genre, pêche et aquaculture: Capital social et connaissances pour la transition vers l’utilisation durable des écosystèmes aquatiques. / Género, pesca y acuicultura: Capital social y conocimientos para la transición hacia el desarrollo sostenible. / Género, pesca e aquacultura: Capital social e conhecimento para a transição para um uso sustentável dos ecosistemas aquáticos.

Brussels, Bruxuelles, Bruselas, Bruxelas, ACP-EU Fish.Res.Rep., (16):128 p. ISSN 1025-3971 / EUR 20432

This report in four languages summarises empirical material presented at a workshop on gender, fisheries and aquaculture end 2004, but also proposes some commonalities and trends observed in the cross-section of case materials presented and analysed during the workshop. Among the case studies figured the traditional fishing exercised only by women, here from Kakemba in Fiji. They seal 'vono' holes on reef flats and stupefy fish with plant poison, a typical traditional way to trap fish in deep holes during the outgoing tide (courtesy Mecki Kronen and Aliti Vunisea, Secretariat of the Pacific Community).

Ancestral conservation roles of women were distilled from earlier research, but had given way to subservience of many women in modern settings, hand in hand with resource degradation. The evidence about contemporary roles of women in the documented fisheries suggested that, although their labour and managerial contribution was often substantial, denial of social recognition kept their contribution largely invisible, unacknowledged and unaccounted for. They were typically active in the postharvest sector, but also in net mending and management of family affairs, while the men were at sea. The behavioural patterns of women was found remarkably similar across very different social systems and degrees of economic development of their communities or countries. Extra-effort expended by women to keep their men in the fishing activity despite declines in the resource can easily lead to social dumping and enable further overfishing. Often, as a last resort to ensure access to food and/or secure some additional income, women go fishing themselves or glean seafood from coastal flats. Such effects have been characterised as 'Malthusian overfishing'. Conversely, women in some Asian countries have been able to increase household food security through managing flood depressions or permanent aquaculture ponds, especially where proper technical, institutional and financial support was provided for them.

The report concludes with some practical advice how to 'engender' research and consultancy work to make the different social roles of men and women in fisheries and aquaculture visible as a basis for rectifying perceived ideas and improving understanding of the structure and dynamics of social interactions in fisheries and aquaculture in different parts of the world. A section with further reading is also provided.



The context of massive aquatic ecosystem degradation raises the question on how women in fisheries and aquaculture can contribute to the transition towards sustainability through restoration of lost productivity. The reasons for the degradation are found in the fisheries sector in high impact gears and overcapitalisation with associated socio-economic challenges. Aquaculture, which shows still high growth rates, has some unsustainable segments and certain types exacerbate ecosystem degradation. There are then also negative social effects as less endowed women and men rely overproportionately on the productivity of healthy ecosystems. Empirical evidence of women’s roles in all continents shows patterns of unrecognised, unpaid labour that clouds the economic signals of increasing resource rarefaction. Historically, women have been associated with resource conservation embedded in traditional belief systems, which have, however, been progressively eroded. Where social recognition is achieved through e.g. enforcement of modern equal opportunity legislation – especially when combined with access to formal education and training - women regain capabilities for enhanced social organisation and leadership. This can lead to significant contributions to restoration of natural resources. A participatory method is proposed to render women’s role visible and enable development of socio-economic organisation supportive of social justice and sustainable resource use. Further reading and selected web resources are intended to further help readers to take practical follow-up action.

The English version can be downloaded here, the Portuguese one here.