We need to make women in fishing families visible and allow their voices to be heard.
Women hold a range of roles in the fishing community and industry. They also play a vital part in the running of many family fishing businesses.
Yet often unpaid and invisible, the contributions of women members of this industry are commonly undervalued and unrecognised.
Women made up 15% of the UK’s fisheries and aquaculture sector in 2012*
But we don’t know what these women - some 1,400 workers in the UK - were actually doing.
Research by the European Parliament has shown that there is very poor information on women’s employment in the fish-catching industry, with data often missing or not collected at all.
Whilst we know that women’s direct participation in the fish catching industry is relatively low in the UK, the situation is markedly different in Newfoundland - where 20% of the region’s registered fishers in 2011 were women. Whilst this number is comparatively high, very few women own licenses in their own name and we have little knowledge of these women’s activities.
Evidence suggests UK women are particularly active in fish processing and administration. But with the collapse of Atlantic fish stocks in 1992 (and subsequent ban on cod fishing), Newfoundland women’s employment in these areas was drastically reduced. What are they doing now?
We know they hold many ‘hidden’ roles in coastal communities, such as providing support before and after a catch is landed and looking after children. Research has also shown that women play an important part in supporting the health and wellbeing of their fishing partners and fathers.
On both sides of the Atlantic there is not enough knowledge about the vital roles women are fulfilling.
Women’s roles are crucial to fishing families, their communities and the industry.
It is also increasingly common for women to have employment outside of fishing.
This change towards families seeking a second income has been linked with a drop in the profitability of fishing due to, for example, tighter regulations and a changing market.
As a consequence, in many cases women’s non-fishing income has made them the primary ‘breadwinners’ of the family.
Research has suggested women’s employment outside of the fishing home has not led to a change in their childcare duties, placing a significant burden on their time and responsibilities.
We want to understand how fishing families can be supported to evolve and flourish in a changing political and environmental landscape. Getting to grips with the invisible and unknown roles of women is central to this goal.