This World Fisheries Day, we are shining a spotlight on some of the unseen and often overlooked figures in the fishing industry and bringing attention to the critical role underrepresented groups play in sustainable fisheries, including women, small-scale fishers and Indigenous people.
When you image a fisher – what do you see? Probably a man on a boat, casting a net, hauling a trap or fighting to stay aboard amongst terrifyingly tall waves. Yet, this portrayal and narrow definition of the industry is far from reality. Women play many key roles within the fishing industry, acting as community leaders, fishers, post-harvest processors, and product marketers and traders. In fact, with the inclusion of post-harvest activities, one study estimated that almost half the workers in the fishing industry world-wide are women. These activities provide an important source of food and income for many households, but oftentimes, these contributions go unnoticed. The empowerment, integration and recognition of women in fisheries, especially in decision-making processes, is a key gap that must be addressed to ensure socially equitable fisheries.
An estimated 47 million people work in small scale fisheries, making it the largest group of people who use and directly depend on the ocean and its resources for their livelihoods.
Artisanal, or small-scale fisheries, are traditional fisheries involving fishing households (as opposed to commercial companies). They use relatively small amounts of capital and energy, small fishing vessels (if any) and fish mainly for local consumption.
However, small scale fisheries are increasingly overshadowed and marginalized by industrial and commercial fishing fleets, large-scale aquaculture ventures, conservation interests, coastal development and resource access.
Fishers in small-scale fisheries in developing countries make up more than 90 per cent of the world’s fisheries workforce and produce food for an estimated four billion consumers globally. This includes around one billion low-income consumers in developing economies, who rely on seafood for their food and nutritional needs. Improved governance and support for small-scale fisheries in low-income countries is needed to improve the livelihood and food security for millions of people around the world supported by this sector.
Cultural and Indigenous fisheries represent some of the oldest continual fishing activities, many of which are inherently sustainable and resilient. Within Australia, fishing practices for ceremonial, cultural, economic, educational, social, and spiritual purposes are immensely significant to Aboriginal identity, tradition and self-determination.
In Australia and globally, efforts to recognize customary and Indigenous fishing practices in fisheries management frameworks and planning will support the values and aspirations of indigenous peoples and communities.
Fisheries are rapidly expanding and developing to meet the growing demand for seafood. As it stands, one third of fisheries are in a critical condition and exploited at unsustainable levels, threatening the health and vitality of our oceans. At Minderoo Foundation, we believe that giving more recognition and a louder voice to underrepresented groups within the fisheries and seafood sector is key for achieving sustainable and equitable fisheries.
In recognition of World Fisheries Day and the fisherfolk behind the (sea)food on your plate, we encourage you to get to know the seafood you are eating. Ask what it is, where it came from, and how it was produced – the Minderoo Foundation’s Oceans initiative has created a handy Consumer Seafood Guide to help you make informed seafood choices.
Take a moment to consider the people behind that fish, and ensure you are purchasing seafood that comes from sustainable and equitable fisheries.
Kendra Travaille is a researcher for Minderoo’s Flourishing Oceans Initiative, working to help develop the Global Fisheries Index. Kendra has over 7 years’ experience working in marine conservation, fisheries governance and seafood certification. Kendra holds a Master’s degree in Marine Conservation and is currently completing her doctoral degree at the University of Western Australia examining the role of the sustainable seafood movement in improving fisheries outcomes in the developing world.
Megan is a research analyst in the Flourishing Oceans Fisheries team. Her previous research role in the Galápagos Islands focused on the ecology of sharks. Megan also has experience working with Western Australian commercial fisheries, WA state government marine park planning, with conservation initiatives in several countries around the world and holds a BSc with Honours majoring in Coastal & Marine Science and Environmental Biology from Curtin University.