Historically, seafaring has been understood through the scope of men – but women in cultures around the world have always played a crucial role in fisheries, trade, and ocean conservation. This year’s UN World Oceans Day is dedicated to shedding light on women’s role in our oceans, and how we can create equal opportunity for women in maritime industries.
Women in Fisheries
Women have been overlooked in fisheries for years, but we are now uncovering that they play a huge role in the industry – both directly and indirectly. When you break it down, half of the global fisheries workforce is women!
Economically, women sustain the capture-fishing industry by supporting their male partners and investing in them. Behind the scenes women are managing the businesses, keeping records and making sure everything is running correctly. While the men are at sea, women are on shore communicating for them and marketing the business. Other on-shore activities like preparing boats and marketing catches are predominantly done by women.
More than half of the cleaning and preparation of fish is performed by women.
On the front lines, women are also involved in capturing seafood. Coastal fishing of invertebrates and small fish is predominantly accomplished by women, although their work in this area has been overlooked for years because it wasn’t considered ‘fishing’. Industrial fishing is mainly done by men (2% female) while women participate mainly in near shore, small-scale fishing. Despite the small number of women being involved in offshore fishing, women are the front runners when it comes to sustainable fishing practices.
Women Leading Aquaculture
Aquaculture is dominated by women globally; who constitute 70% of the workforce. Aquaculture is the fastest growing food industry in the world, and will be vital to feeding a growing human population. Women are mainly involved in small-scale aquaculture which allows them to complete their family duties – while industrial aquaculture is a male-dominated industry.
Despite their crucial role in the aquaculture industry, women are still paid less than men at 64% of the salary. Women face many disadvantages compared to men such as a lack of resources and transportation which would allow their aquaculture business to grow and expand. Women involved in aquaculture have to stay close their families to take care of them and their homes. Combined, these factors result in women having a small local market which stifles their income, while men are able to participate in industrial aquaculture which has a wider market and brings a higher income.
Women Dedicated To Saving The Ocean
Only 38% of marine scientists are women, but women have still made a huge impact through their activism. Several phenomenal women like Elizabeth Mann Borgese – considered the first modern-day environmentalist – have been essential in the development of marine conservation. Women have made their mark on several areas of marine conservation, for example the study of marine litter is predominantly led by women.
When it comes to environmental non-profit organizations, the proportions of men and women involved are fairly balanced.
Women in the same fields have also begun banding together to create their own organizations – which not only help improve the field but to create a support system.
Given all of this information, I think we can agree that more has to be done to create gender equality in the marine field.
- The spotlight needs to placed on women and their roles in marine related matters whether directly or indirectly so their contributions aren’t overlooked.
- The same opportunities created for men need to be available for women to allow them to succeed – especially as Aquaculture grows.
- Women need protection and support to allow them to work effectively both at-sea and on land.
Written by Micaela Small – Education Development Intern at TerraMar