Friday, June 21, 2019

Women and Fishing, by Don Orth

Men and women use natural resources in different ways and may be differentially influenced by fisheries management policies.  Preferences and resource dependencies lead to some gender stereotypes about fishing.  In subsistence and commercial fisheries, catching of fish is often male dominated whereas the processing and marketing sectors are female dominated (Harper et al. 2017).  Yet, even these generalizations are misleading given the lack of attention to gender roles in fisheries science.  Few studies have been done comparing male and female motivations and preferences in recreational angling (Toth and Brown 1997; Schroeder et al. 2006). In the US, approximately 27% of anglers are female which is unchanged over twenty years (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2012).  Marketing and fisheries management in the US has focused more on male motivations and preferences.  One failed attempt to market pink fishing reels failed to “Know Your Customer” (Merwin 2010).  The gender gap in participation in recreational fishing is likely tied to inappropriate avenues for socialization into male dominated sports (Carini and Weber 2017). 

Globally, women comprise about 47 per cent of the 120 million people who work in the capture fisheries and post-harvest sectors (Montfort 2015).   While women are involved in the fishing, farming, processing, trading and selling of fish, their role is often overlooked in decision making for cultural reasons. For example, many cultural constructions in rural Bangladesh undermine the capacity of women to aspire to leadership roles and raise their voice to male power (Deb et al. 2015).  However, the temporary departure of men creates more socio-political space for fisherwomen to take on additional roles and responsibilities.  In West African regions, women control the marketing and processing sectors and have taken on larger roles as owners of boats, nets, and fishing equipment (Bennett 2005; Walker 2010). In some countries, women are not allowed to go to sea, or own a fishing business; women are often the invisible fishing fleet.  The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, adopted unanimously by 189 countries, is an agenda for empowerment of women.

Today in many small-scale fisheries, women are important fishery workers, but invisible and often underpaid (Montfort 2015). In Bangladesh, girls and women are a very cheap labor source for shrimp processing factories (Deb et al. 2015).   Fisheries management policies are set by governance bodies that exclude women (Baker-Médard 2016). The organization, Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries, is devoted to giving “greater visibility to and increase awareness of the importance of incorporating gender and more particularly women in fisheries and aquaculture interventions.”
Rana Tharu women go fishing in southwest Nepal.  CC-BY-NC-SA   Source.
Timucua women fishing1562.  Drawing by Jacques Le Moyne.  CC-BY-NC-SA.  Source.
Women net fishing Madagascar by Rod Waddington  CC-BY-SA.  Source.
Commercial fishing fleets are overwhelmingly male dominated with fewer than 4% of commercial fishing licenses issued to women in Oregon and Washington states.  Yet women contribute to resilient communities by caring for family and maritime household and increasingly women play a significant role in science, fisheries management, policy, and decision making (Calhoun et al. 2016).  The following quote is from participant in an oral history project.
“I used to go to groundfish management team meetings 25 years ago, and if there was one woman scientist in the groundfish management team it was a big deal. And now you see women are the chairs of the groundfish management team. So seeing changes, growth of women in both management and in science. Although I know those areas are still a challenge too. And then the rise of women participating in the decision-making process.”
Though sometimes invisible, women are slowly changing the world of fishing by breaking the stereotypes. Here I share a few examples on women making a substantial impact through their passion toward fishing.  These examples demonstrate women who loved and valued what they did.  If the paucity of female role models discourages females from seeing the relevance of fishing to them, these examples should inspire.
Georgina Ballantine with 64 pound Atlantic Salmon from River Tay, Scotland.  Photo from Glendelvine
Joan Wulff was introduced to flyfishing by her father when she was ten.  She won several flyfishing accuracy championships before winning the 1951 Fishermen’s Distance competition against all-male competitors. She became the first female spokesperson for Garcia Corporation in 1959 and advocated for women anglers in her writings for Outdoor Life and Rod & Reel.    Today many females are engaged in the sport of fly fishing. Joan Wulff participated in many distance casting events and also did trick casting.   She snapped a cigarette from the mouth of Johnny Carson on the TV show “Who Do You Trust?” (Fogt 2017).  Watch this video narrated by Joan Wulff to learn more about her technique. Starting in 1978, Joan Wulff opened a fly casting school on the Upper Beaverkill River in New York.  Joan Wulff’s Fly-Casting Techniques, published in 1987, and Joan Wulff’s New Fly-Casting Techniques, published in 2012, are classic guides to learning her techniques. When asked about her favorite fish, she would respond “whatever I’m fishing for“ and her favorite place to fish  was “wherever I am.”

Photo of Eugenie Clark spearfishing.   Photo from Mote Marine Lab.
Eugenie Clark (1922-2015) was zoologist at a time when the field was male dominated. In her first book, Lady with a Spear, she wrote of her expeditions to the West Indies, Hawaii, Guam, Palaus, and the Red Sea, and early research trials on vision and behavior in gobies, puffers, triggerfishes, and sharks. Eugenie Clark became a self-taught expert in the art of throwing a cast net, and catching fish with both wooden handled harpoons and spear guns. She pioneered research on behavior of sharks and conducted numerous submersible dives around the world and founded the Mote Marine Lab before becoming a professor at the University of Maryland.  A timeline of her accomplishments appeared in the Herald Tribune.
Betty Bauman is the founder and CEO of Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing!(R). Betty created “The No-Yelling School of Fishing.”  Most avid bass anglers can identify Roland Martin, Bill Dance, and Jimmy Houston, who dominated competitive bass fishing in the first decade of B.A.S.S. and have had TV fishing shows for decades.    But most females won’t identify with the three male legends. Kim Bain-Moore began competing in bass tournaments at age 19 and in 2009 became the first woman to compete in the Bassmaster Classic tournament.  But female participation in competitive bass fishing never took off as expected.  Fewer that 1 in 5 readers of Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Bassmaster magazines are female (Carini and Weber 2017).  Yet the future growth of sport fishing will rely on female anglers, instructors, and guides.  There are signs of change since Betty Baumann started offering Ladies Let’s Go Fishing! to expose women to a non-intimidating atmosphere where they could learn fishing techniques.  Since the first program in 1997, over 8,000 participants have graduated from the Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing! Training.  In 2018,  the Lady Bass Anglers Association was formed to promote the Women’s Pro Bass Tour.   Wild River Press released Fifty Women Who Fish by Steve Kantner.  Today we see many more female fishing guides, fishing resources for female anglers, and female anglers on social media. Consider young writer and fishing guide, Ashley Rae, who operates She Loves To Fish, a fishing guide service focused on teaching women to fish.  

Today we are re-gendering many types of work and leisure activities.  The significant challenges that we face in freshwater and marine conservation at home and abroad will require input from all.  Rather than propagating stereotypes of fishing activities, we need to explore the participation across gender and other differences so we can do a better job evaluating outcomes of conservation for the well-being of all humans. 

Bennett, E. 2005.  Gender, fisheries and development.  Marine Policy 29:451-459. 
Buller, F. 2013. A list of large Atlantic Salmon landed by the ladies.  American Fly Fisher 39(4):2-21.
Calhoun, S., F. Conway, and S. Russell.  2016.  Acknowledging the voice of women: implications for fisheries management and policy.  Marine Policy 74:292-299.
Carini, R.M., and J.D. Weber. 2017. Female anglers in a predominantly male sport: portrayals in five popular fishing-related magazines.  International Review for the Sociology of Sport 52(1):45-60.
Clark, E. 1951.  Lady with a spear.  Harper Brothers. New York.  243 pp. 
Deb, A.K., C.E. Haque, and S. Thompson. 2015. ‘Man can’t give birth, woman can’t fish’: gender dynamics in the small-scale fisheries of Bangladesh.  Gender, Place & Culture 22(3):305-324. 
Fogt, J. 2017. Virtuoso.  Anglers Journal. 12 May.   Accessed at on 21 June, 2019.
Harper, S., C. Grubb, M. Stiles, and U.R. Sumaila. 2017 Contributions by women to fisheries economies: Insights from five maritime countries. Coastal Management 45(2):91-106.
Klieber, D., L.M. Harris, and A.C.J. Vincent. 2014. Gender and small-scale fisheries: a case for counting women and beyond.   Fish and Fisheries 16(4):547-562.
Merwin, J. 2010.  Merwin:  Study says most women don’t like pink fishing gear.  Field & Stream, 24 May.   Available at  Accessed 20 June 2019.
Montfort, M.C. 2015. The role of women in the seafood industry.  Globefish Research Program Volume 119, FAO, Rome. 67 pp.
Baker-Médard, M. 2017. Gendering marine conservation: The politics of marine protected areas and fisheries access. Society & Natural Resources 30(6):723-737.
Schroeder, S.A., D.C. Fulton, L. Currie, and T. Goeman. 2006. He said, she said: Gender and angling specialization, motivations, ethics, and behaviors. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 11(5):301-315.  
Toth, J.F., Jr., and R.B. Brown. 1997.  Racial and gender meanings of why people participate in recreational fishing.  Leisure Sciences 19:129-146.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2012.  2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Available at: (accessed 18 June 2019).
Walker, B.L.E. 2001.  Sisterhood, and seine-nets: engendering development and conservation in Ghana’s marine fishery. The Professional Geographer 53(2):160-177.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

What Fish Should I Eat? by Don Orth

Fisheries and aquaculture provide protein for a quarter of the world’s population and livehoods for 59.6 million workers. Fish provide a high-quality, easily digested animal protein with essential amino acids, fats, and micronutrients. Greater consumption of fish is associated with a lower risk of dementia, cognitive decline, and cardiovascular disease (Bakre et al. 2018; Marshall and van der Meij 2018).  Eat more fish - it's good for you!  Yet, the diversity of fish and types of fishing makes the selection of what fish to eat more complicated. 
Tuna is a popular food fish worldwide.  Photo by Ashbridge Studios, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.  Source
One of many challenges to reducing hunger and malnutrition is to eliminate overfishing and delivering seafood in sustainable manner that does not further contribute to climate change.  Globally, 67% of assessed fish stocks are within biologically sustainable levels, which means they are at or above the level associated with maximum sustainable yield (FAO 2018); however, more fish stocks are being overfished.
Global trends in the state of the world’s marine fish stocks, 1974-2015.   Source:  FAO 2018.  CC-BY-NC-SA        
Fish and fish products provide an average of only ~34 calories per capita per day but the daily contribution varies widely by region based on availability of alternative protein sources and cultural preferences for fish.  Annual per capita consumption has more than tripled since 1961 in developing regions where four fish dominate our menu — salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna (Greenberg 2011).   Many low-income regions of Latin America and Africa, where political instability and civil unrest have stymied economic development, still have very high food deficits.

Contribution of fish to animal protein supply (2013-2015).   Source:  FAO 2018.  CC-BY-NC-SA    
More people are consuming fish than ever before. The admonition to “think global and act local” should translate to eating locally harvested seafood and minimizing costs and unsustainable fishing practices. The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (FAO 1995) is a guiding framework for implementing sustainable fisheries and aquaculture operations. It sets out international principles and standards of behavior to ensure effective conservation, management, and development of both marine and freshwater living aquatic resources. It also accounts for the impact of fishing on ecosystems, the impact of ecosystems on fisheries, and the need to conserve biodiversity.    

Sustainability is a plastic word (Nikiforuk 2019). A fishery is not simply sustainable or not sustainable.  It’s more complicated and requires many choices.  Most practitioners accept three dimensions of sustainability: social, economic and ecological, but a deeper analysis requires consideration of six dimensions of sustainable development, specifically economic, social, ecological, institutional, ethical, and technological factors (Lam and Pitcher 2012; Aquado et al. 2016). For example, justice relates to equity or the fair distribution of benefits and harm, in terms of ecosystems and social justice. Many issues play into assessing sustainability.  Globally, we should be concerned with issues of seafood safety, bycatch, fish fraud, pollution from fish farms, post-harvest loss and waste, local governance, microplastics, lost and discarded fishing gear, overharvest of forage fish harvesting for fish meal, and many other social and ethical issues. As the trade flow diagrams show us, the source of our seafood is also complicated and most regions are importing much of their seafood. Your choice of fish to eat may depend on where and how it was harvested. 
Trade flows of fish and fish product by continent, share of total imports in value 2016 (%).  Source:  FAO 2018.  CC-BY-NC-SA        
Seafood certification, or ecolabeling, provided by third-parties, such as the Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch, are the beginnings of evaluation of ethical and sustainble fisheries. Fishing practices changed dramatically in response to public outrage over harvest of dolphins in tuna purse-seining.  Fisheries that meet Marine Stewardship Criteria are highly selective for the target species, have limited access, well regulated, enforced, and often involve co-management between government, scientists, and fishers.  Seafood Watch develops fisheries and aquaculture standards to judge and communicate fish to “avoid” and “good” or “best” choices.  A novel aspect of this program rates whether fisheries support human trafficking, forced labor or child labor, as well as a new tool that collects data on carbon emissions (Monterey Bay Aquarium 2018).  These third-party certifications of sustainability have not yet delivered on the promise of price premiums, improved governance, or improved environmental conditions (Roheim et al. 2018). Challenges remain in the implementation of seafood sustainability due to potential for confusion about the overlapping goals of a growing range of sustainability initiatives (McClenachan et al. 2016).  

Three types of seafood sustainability initiatives and example goals of each (McClenachan et al. 2016).
One of the remaining issues of ecosystem justice remains to be solved.  With the expansion of aquaculture, the demand for fish meal has increased.   Small fishes, menhaden, anchovies, sardines, capelin, herring, and others are harvested and sent to reduction facilities that market and sell food to fish and other farms.   These fish, often labeled as forage fish, when overfished, no longer support seabirds and larger striped bass or bluefin tuna at higher trophic levels. 

What fish should I eat?  You can eat the fish you catch locally after you learn about local fish consumption advisories.  Take time to learn more about the fish you purchase to eat and how they were harvested.  Alaska Pollock Theragra chalcogramma had the highest catch of any fish in the world, followed by anchoveta, and Skipjack Tuna Katsuwonus pelamis.   Pollock is a “best choice” option according to Seafood Watch, but the Marine Stewardship Council has certified only the US fisheries for Alaska Pollock. McDonald's Filet-O-Fish contains Alaska Pollock in North America.   Skipjack Tuna is a “best choice” if harvested by trolling or pole-and-line fisheries, whereas the long line and purse seine fisheries is a “good choice” due to concerns of bycatch of dolphins. Tuna fisheries that use purse seines with FAD (fish attraction devices) should be avoided.   How do you know?   Look for the Marine Stewardship Council logo on any fish you purchase. 
I also started to compare the carbon foot prints of wild versus farmed seafood. The Seafood Carbon Emissions Tool was created by scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program and Dalhousie University. This tool also allows you to calculate the emissions associated with transporting the product to its final destination.   Most highly valued species such as shrimp, prawns, salmon, tunas, groundfish (e.g., cod, hakes, and haddocks), flatfish, seabass, and seabream are traded to the most prosperous markets, while less valued species are exported to developing countries. The US imports 98% of its Atlantic Salmon.  My favorite wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon turns out to have a very high carbon cost associated with transport  

Since aquaculture provides over 50% of global seafood and the US imports the majority of its edible seafood, expect the supply of farmed seafood to continue to increase.  Hopefully, more of these products will be marketed with third party certification to assure responsible practices. Look for the logo for Best Aquaculture Practices Certification.  Watch for locally grown seafood from farms that use recirculating aquaculture technology and integrate aquaponics with fish production.  A land-based aquaponics farm, Superior Fresh, is expanding operations in Wisconsin on a 720-acre property producing fish and leafy green vegetables.  Superior Fresh is the first land-based Atlantic Salmon producer and the world’s largest aquaponics facility.  The goal is to producing seafood with a smaller environmental footprint than other options.  At a recent Wisconsin Aquaculture conference Greg Fischer, Manager of the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility, predicted that Walleye “will be the next big food fish for aquaculture in the Midwest.”  This locally produced fish would reduce demand on wild stocks. 

Aguado, S.H., I.S. Segado, and T.J. Pitcher.  2016. Towards sustainable fisheries: A multi-criteria participatory approach to assessing indicators of sustainable fishing communities: A case study from Cartagena (Spain). Marine Policy 65:97-106.
Bakre, A.T. and thirteen coauthors. 2018.  Association between fish consumption and risk of dementia: a new study from China and a systematic literature review and meta-analysis.  Public Health Nutrition 21(10):1921-1932.
FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome.  Accessed 17 June, 2019 from
FAO. 2018. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2018 - Meeting the sustainable development goals. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.  227 pp.  Accessed 17 June, 2019 from
Greenberg, P. 2011.  Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.    Penguin Books, 285 pp. 
Lam, M.E., and T.J. Pitcher. 2012.  The ethical dimensions of fisheries.  Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 4:364-373.
Marshall, S., and B. van der Meij. 2018.  Fish and omega-3 intake and health in older people.   Maturitas 115:117-118. 
McClenachan, L., S.T.M. Dissanayake, and X. Chen. 2016. Fair trade fish: consumer support for broader seafood sustainability.  Fish and Fisheries 17:825-838.
Monterey Bay Aquarium. 2018.  Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Launches First-of-its-Kind Seafood Slavery Risk Tool.    Accessed 17 June 2019 from
Nikiforuk, A. 2019.  Against ‘sustainability’ and other plastic words.  The Tyee  2 May. Accessed on 18 June at
Roheim, C.A., S.R. Bush, F. Asche, J.N. Sanchirico, and H. Uchida. 2018. Evolution and the future of sustainable seafood market.  Nature Sustainability 1:392-398.