Contributions by women to fisheries economies: insights from five maritime countries

The contribution by women to fisheries economies globally continues to be overlooked, in part, because “fishing” is often narrowly defined as catching fish at sea, from a vessel, using specialized gears. Both men and women are involved in fisheries, but often in different roles and activities. Fisheries research, management, and policy have traditionally focused on direct, formal, and paid fishing activities—that are often dominated by men, ignoring those that are indirect, informal, and/or unpaid—where women are concentrated. This has led to a situation where men’s and women’s contributions to fisheries are not equally valued or even recognized and has resulted in women being largely excluded from fisheries decision-making processes. Here, we examine the contributions by women in the fisheries sector of five globally significant marine fishing countries—Mexico, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, and Vietnam. These countries each have strong links between livelihoods and marine capture fisheries, yet represent different geographic, socioeconomic, and governance contexts. Through a synthesis of existing data, case studies, and consultation with local experts, we found that the contribution by women to the fisheries of these five countries is substantial. However, this investigation also revealed major gaps in understanding of gender inequalities in the fisheries sector and the need for better gender-disaggregated data to inform fisheries policy.