Reflections from People and the Sea

The Centre for Maritime Research held their biennial People and the Sea conference in June, and we thought it would be helpful to share some of the highlights here.

Held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the meeting marked the 10th anniversary of the event and focused on “learning from the past, and imagining the future”.

The Women in Fisheries project organised several sessions over the week-long proceedings. The first considered the various methodologies researchers use to understand relationships between people and the sea, with participants reflecting on the lessons learned in adopting certain approaches.

As part of this session, I (Madeleine Gustavsson) presented previous work on fishing cultures in North Wales, and discussed the ethical and practical challenges that emerged in the research process. Other presenters talked about their experiences from ‘the field’ and offered insights from applying certain methods in the context of people and the sea.

These brilliant discussions will also feed into a forthcoming book, “Researching People and the Sea: Methodologies and Traditions”, edited by myself, Carole White, Jeremy Phillipson and Kristen Ounanian.

Our amazing Women in Fisheries team.

Our amazing Women in Fisheries team.

We also held two sessions on “Fishy feminists” in collaboration with Christine Knott from Memorial University, which explored the use of feminist theories in fisheries research.

These seminars included presentations from various theoretical approaches across the world, and I presented my preliminary literature review on women’s contribution to fishing economies.

Both sessions were very well attended, reflecting increased interest in themes of gender issues and feminist theory—which we were really excited about! Christine and I hope to develop this into a special issue for a journal in the near future.

Over the week I had the chance to attend sessions from a range of themes, including the blue economy, marine spatial planning, livelihoods, and coastal childhoods.

Previous keynote speakers were also asked to identify key areas in need of future research. Many interesting topics were highlighted during these presentations, but the need to understand the important roles and practices women perform in fishing economies was not mentioned.

Although there were plenty of interesting sessions covering this topic, it has clearly yet to become mainstream within the ‘people and the sea’ academic community. In response, Katia Frangoudes initiated a petition calling for a better representation of research on women and gender.

Hopefully we can change this before the next MARE conference in two years time.

M Gustavsson