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.”
|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?” 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. 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 https://www.anglersjournal.com/freshwater/virtuoso 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 https://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/bass-fishing/2010/05/merwin-study-says-most-women-dont-pink-fishing-gear/ 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. http://www.fao.org/3/a-bc014e.pdf
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: http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/fhw11-nat.pdf (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.