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:


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Towards gender-equitable small-scale fisheries governance and development – A handbook by Nilanjana Biswas

This document was developed to support gender-equitable small-scale fisheries by enhancing the understanding of their gender dimensions, with a focus on the specific role and conditions of women in the...

Gender in coastal and fisheries resource management: A Regional Synthesis Report


The study provides a number of evidence based arguments and recommendations that help elaborate exactly why gender equality is fundamental in coastal and marine resources management…

Women’s Economic Empowerment and WTO Trade Negotiations: Potential Implications for LDC, SVEs and SSA Countries

This explores the possibility of incorporating gender issues into multilateral trade negotiations at the WTO, as well as discussing the likely implications for least developed countries (LDCs), small, vulnerable economies...

What gender mainstreaming in agriculture means in practice: Cases from selected countries of the European Union.


This publication focuses on case studies from five member countries of the European Union (EU). These illustrate how gender equality issues can be addressed in agriculture and rural development policies...

Women’s participation and leadership in fisherfolk  organizations and collective action in fisheries: A review of evidence on enablers, drivers and barriers


This paper summarizes analyses of a global literature review on women in fisherfolk organizations. The aim of the study was to identify positive examples and lessons learned by pointing to...

Changing Tides: Gender, Fisheries and Globalization Edited by Barbara Neis, Marian Binkley, Siri Gerrard and Maria Cristina Maneschy


This book is about the way women’s lives and gender relations within the world’s fisheries are being shaped by globalization. The collection combines short, focused articles taken from Samudra and...

Small-scale fishing income and fuel consumption: Fiji’s artisanal sea cucumber fishery

This study affirms that island fishers can have a strong economic dependency on coastal invertebrates for household incomes. Promotion of fishing strategies, such as gleaning, and training in alternative livelihood...

Fortalecimiento de peladoras de camarón, Costa Rica

Strengthening collective action and capacity of the female shrimp peelers from Barra del Colorado, Costa Rica

Infographic video on SSF Guidelines: Gender Equity and Equality

Short animated video that wants to trigger awareness and discussion about gender equality in small-scale fisheries. One of the goals of the SSF Guidelines is helping to challenge gender-discriminatory laws,...

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