Gender in Fisheries and Aquaculture

Gender shapes the differential identities of women and men, their norms, roles and responsibilities. It influences people’s (unequal) access to resources and decision making. It influences people’s agency.

Fisheries is generally considered a male domain. Women’s roles in fisheries—along the whole value chain,  in sustaining the fishing families and community,  in protecting natural resources and local food security—are often glossed over and remain invisible. In the fisheries sector, women face persistent gender-based discrimination and marginalization, differentially defined by the diverse social context.

Women are overrepresented in vulnerable categories of employment in fisheries. They generally lack tenure security; access to productive assets and market opportunities; decent work conditions; and they have limited access to services like healthcare, child care, credits, insurance, legal aid and capacity building. They are exposed to sexual violence, prejudices and other forms of harassment. Each and every crisis impacts them disproportionately.

Women are poorly represented in fisheries’ associations, cooperatives and unions. They rarely have a say in the decisions that govern their fisheries and other matters that affect their life and livelihood. Mainstream policies and programmes remain gender-blind or biased. Lack of data undermines women’s role in fisheries.

For ICSF, since its inception in 1986, valorizing and strengthening women’s roles in fisheries and within organizations has always been a priority. For this it has undertaken research, training, advocacy and publication of the Gender in Fisheries Newsletter Yemaya. ICSF played a pioneering role in this. Its ‘Women in Fisheries’ work has been highlighting the patriarchal practices in fisheries and how these directly relate to the unsustainable exploitation of nature, to poverty and to food insecurity. It has questioned the nature of fisheries development itself, highlighting a ‘feminist perspective’ for an alternative that is in harmony with the ecosystem and respects life and livelihoods and the human rights of all people. For more information read ICSF’s Gender Policy

Current Programmes

The 8th Global Symposium on Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries, GAF8, Special Session 7: Shared Experiences of Women in Fisheries by ICSF

Special Session 7: Shared Experiences of Women in Fisheries

The 25 Minute film (compiled by ICSF) shows a change that has occurred over a decade in different countries across the world — truthful appreciation of women’s role in fisheries. Despite differences in society, culture, politics and economics, their involvement in the sector follows a similar arc the world over. The film is an effort to understand and identify the main factors over the past decade that have shaped their role, both positively and negatively. It highlights invisible voices from the South Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Caribbean region during GAF 8 at Kochi. For more:

Asia Workshop: IYAFA 2022-Celebrating Sustainable and Equitable Small-scale Fisheries Need for gender equality in 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:


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...

A step forward: A film on women fishworkers in India

This film explores the role of women fishworkers in selected regions of India. It looks at some of the problems they face in their daily work and the initiatives they...

Workshop on gender and coastal fishing communities in Latin America 10-15 June 2000, Prainha Do Canto Verde, Ceara, Brazil, Proceedings

This document carries a report of the workshop. It also includes background papers from Chile, Mexico, Peru and Brazil that were prepared for the workshop, detailing the situation of women...

Women first: Report of the women in fisheries programme of the ICSF in India


This Dossier is being published in two volumes. Volume I contains details of Women in Fisheries in the different States of India. Volume II contains tabulated data relating to women’s...

Women for sustainable fisheries: Report of the first phase of the women in fisheries programme of ICSF


This draws on reports from seven countries to arrive at an understanding of the issue of gender in fisheries. In the process, it questions traditional norms in male-dominated fishworker organizations,...

Globalisation, gender and fisheries: Report of the Senegal workshop on gender perspectives in fisheries

This series contains the report of the concluding workshop of the first phase of the Women in Fisheries programme of ICSF. Held in Rufisque, Senegal, in June 1996, the Workshop...

Conversations: A trialogue on power, intervention, and organization in fisheries

This book is the collaborative outcome of three individuals who have worked to build organizations of fishermen and fishworkers since the late 1960s. Aliou Sall from Senegal, Michael Belliveau from...

Public hearing on the struggles of women workers in the fish processing industry in India, 23 and 24 June, 1995, Kerala, India

First in the series on Women in Fisheries, this puts together documents relating to a unique Public Hearing, held at Cochin, India in June 1995, on the problems faced by...

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...

Women’s empowerment, collective actions, and sustainable fisheries: lessons from Mexico

In this paper, we examine the current status of women in Mexican fisheries based on governmental reports and programs, as well as five case studies from small-scale fishing communities. This...

Addressing Gender Issues and Actions in Biodiversity Objectives: New CBD gender report


This Guide aims to give biodiversity professionals working towards achieving different biodiversity objectives, goals and targets some concrete ideas for what they can do to step up progress.

Marine Biodiversity and Villager ‘ Voices

In this documentary, many villagers from several different islands explain their experiences with, and express their views on, the practices of conservation and tourism.

Our Changing Fisheries: Voices from Montserrat

This video is produced by CANARI with contributions from Montserrat fisherfolk and other coastal and marine resource users, as part of the Darwin Plus-funded Climate Change Adaptation in the Fisheries...

Advancing Gender in the Environment: Gender in Fisheries – A Sea of Opportunities


A Sea of Opportunities summarizes research on the intersection of gender and wild-caught fisheries, exploring the ways in which fisheries offer important entry points to enhance gender equality and women’s...