Gender in Fisheries

Women tend to a range of activities in fisheries and fishing communities, formal and informal, full-time and part-time, paid and unpaid. They are especially active in pre- and post-harvest activities. In several countries, inland fishing and aquaculture is mostly up to them.

Their roles are dynamic. In fish processing plants they are workers; in families they are caregivers; in the community they work tirelessly to maintain social networks and culture; they work in the non-fisheries sectors to supplement the household income, providing insurance against the often erratic returns from fishing.

They also participate in harvesting activities in many countries. Women made up 14 percent of about 60 million people engaged in capture fisheries and aquaculture in 2018, FAO data shows. They marketed 60 percent of seafood marketed in Asia and west Africa. Still, a lack of data undermines women’s role in fisheries. Small-scale fisheries face discrimination as a sub-sector; within it, women face further marginalization.

Women experience the lack of basic facilities in markets and landing centres; they have limited access to education, healthcare, sanitation, credit and social protection (including social security). They are exposed to sexual violence and other forms of harassment. Often, their reproductive and productive work is not recognized. They are poorly represented in fishworker associations and organizations. They rarely have a say in the decisions of the family, the community and in the governance of their fisheries.

Which is why the feminist perspective seeks to reshape gender relations in fisheries. It asks questions. The gender perspective isn’t merely about women. It envisions a better man-woman relationship, as also an acknowledgement of women’s roles, rights and responsibilities. For this, there’s no one formula. Its realization must take into account conditions of culture, class, race, ethnicity, age and marital status.

The principle of gender equality and equity is endorsed in the SSF Guidelines as a means of strengthening small-scale fisheries.

Current Programmes

Asia Workshop: IYAFA 2022 -Celebrating Sustainable and Equitable Small-scale Fisheries - Session 3: Women and Gender in Small-scale Fisheries

Asia Workshop: IYAFA 2022-Celebrating Sustainable and Equitable Small-scale Fisheries

Need for gender equality in fisheries

Women play a large role in fisheries, but often their roles and contributions are invisible or not recognized. Women do fish (both on boats and without boats), sort fish, sell fish, process fish and cook fish for home consumptions. However, often women are not seen as “real” fishers and are excluded from fisheries organizations, do not have/ have less access than men to resources such as technology, loans, insurance and information. Women have responsibilities for household work and childcare that limits what they can do in fisheries. They often have less decision making power in the household and society. Some people might feel that women are not discriminated against, but the problem is that they are not even “discriminated”, since they are not even recognized as fishers and only seen as carrying out their duties to support the family... For more:

National Workshop: SSF Guidelines and Women in Fisheries, India, 8 to 10 April 2022

A national workshop will be held towards the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines), through capacity building of women fishworker representatives towards the formation of a national platform of women in fisheries in India. The Workshop, to be held at Asha Nivas, Chennai, India, from 8 to 10 April, 2022 is supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and organised by the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) Trust. Key women fishworker representatives from the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will attend the Workshop. For more:


WIF India workshop: Enhancing women’s roles in fisheries in India

ICSF organized this workshop during 1-3 February 2010 in Navi Mumbai, India to discuss and analyze the role of women in fisheries, and reflect on issues facing women in fishing…

WIF workshop on: Recasting the net: Defining a gender agenda for sustaining life and livelihoods in fishing communities

Active discussion, debate and analysis formed the basis of the “Shared Agenda” agreed on by workshop participants. This captured their “dreams for the future” as well as the “agenda for…

Women fish vendors in India: An information booklet, Draft for comments By Chandrika Sharma, ICSF, 2010


Women fishworkers play critical roles within the fisheries and fishing communities. They contribute in significant ways to the food security needs of a diverse range of consumers. This booklet attempts…

WIF South Africa workshop – Recasting the net: Redefining a gender agenda for sustaining life and livelihood in small-scale fisheries in South Africa

As far as Masifundise Development Trust and Coastal Links – the two South Aricabased fishers’ organizations involved in the meet – are concerned, the workshop helped build their leadership capacity…

Recasting the Net: A review of the literature on women in the fisheries 2nd Draft: July 1, 2010

The present paper is intended to be a background paper for the workshop titled “Recasting the net: Defining a gender agenda for sustaining life and livelihoods in fisheries”. This review…

Women in fisheries case studies: India by Dharmesh Shah

These case studies were commissioned by the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF), in preparation for the national workshop organized in February 2010, India

Yemaya dossier gender focus: A collection of articles from Yemaya

This web dossier compiles selected articles from Yemaya by region, Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, Pacific Islands and North America. The articles provide a broad overview of the key issues…

International legal instruments relevant to fisheries and fishing communities: A handbook on human rights, food security, women and development

This handbook provides detailed information for a wide range of legal instruments relevant to fisheries and fishworkers. This section focuses on legal instruments pertaining to human rights, food security, women…

Report of workshop on emerging concerns of fishing communities: Issues of labour, trade, gender, disaster preparedness biodiversity and responsible fisheries

The document gives a detailed report of the presentations and discussions transpired in the workshop at Fortaleza, Brazil. It is also worth noting that the discussions at the workshop as…

Gender agenda: Women in fisheries: A collection of articles from Samudra report


All these issues have often been debated in the pages of SAMUDRA Report, the triannual publication of ICSF, through contributions from a range of writers, researchers and activists. We hope…

The SPC Women in Fisheries Information Bulletin, No.31,


This 31st issue of the Pacific Community’s Women in Fisheries Information Bulletin includes eighteen original articles from Fiji, Indonesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands.…

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020: Sustainability in action FAO, 2020


The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture aims to provide objective, reliable and up-to-date information to a wide audience – policymakers, managers, scientists, stakeholders and indeed everyone interested in the…

Gender and the Law of the Sea

While the law of the sea has been traditionally portrayed as a technical, gender-neutral set of rules, of concern to States rather than humans, authors in this volume persuasively argue…

Pacific Handbook For Gender Equity And Social Inclusion In Coastal Fisheries And Aquaculture

This handbook is designed to give practical guidance on improving gender and social inclusion in coastal fisheries and aquaculture for staff working in fisheries agencies in Pacific Island countries and…

Gender Analysis: Ghana’s Artisanal Fisheries 2019


The present report describes the current state of knowledge on gender roles in Ghana’s artisanal fisheries, and the opportunities to strengthen how the project’s interventions will promote gender equality within…

Report summary fishery workers and the rights to food – A/HRC/40/56 2019


Those who rely on fisheries for work and serve as the driving force for the realization of the right to food of others, encounter formidable barriers to realizing this right…

Trends in small-scale fishery in Myanmar: Tenure rights and gender in Mon State and Tanintharyi Division


This article traces the process and reflects on the findings of the first step in such a journey currently being undertaken jointly with several small scale fishing communities and local…

Addressing the climate change and poverty nexus: a coordinated approach in the context of the 2030 agenda and the Paris agreement

With a series of policy recommendations and tools to improve the design, delivery, and results of synergies and linkages between climate mitigation and adaptation, poverty reduction and food security actions,…

Competing for kayabo: gendered struggles for fish and livelihood on the shore of Lake Victoria

The women traders from the Democratic Republic of Congo are able to manipulate the network through bribery and derive substantial capital gains from the kayabo trade. But their Tanzanian counterparts…

Women fishers in Norway: few, but significant


In this article, we use a feminist framing and a mixed methods approach to examine the long-term gendered effects of the introduction of the 1990 quota system in Norway. This…