Author: Alyssa Thomas
Two teams from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Ministry of Fisheries (MoF) are currently conducting surveys of women fishers in villages in Bua and Cakaudrove provinces on Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu, and around Koro Island in Lomaiviti Province. Let’s find out why.
In the Pacific, fisheries contribute substantially to food and income for households. Historically, women’s catch was the main, and most stable, source of seafood for household consumption. Men caught seafood on a less regular basis than the women, and were more likely to sell their catch for money. However, the contribution that women made was, and continues to be, ‘overlooked’ or ‘undervalued’. This is largely because the majority of seafood women caught was for food for their families, and therefore harder to track and quantify. However, we know that this is not all that women do.
In many communities women are also involved in post-processing (such as gutting, cleaning, salting or drying) of seafood caught by someone else, such as their husband. Sometimes they cook the seafood and are the ones that sell it in the market. However, there is little available information on the role of women in small-scale fisheries in Fiji. Most of the knowledge we have about women in the fisheries sector in Fiji is outdated from the 1980s and 1990s!
There is a pressing need to better understand the role of women in fisheries in Fiji, especially in the inshore sector. To look at this at a nation-wide scale, WCS has partnered with MoF, community representatives from the Fiji Locally-Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) network, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Women in Fisheries Network-Fiji (WiFN-Fiji), the University of the South Pacific (USP) and Global Vision International (GVI) to undertake a large-scale survey of women fishers in the inshore fisheries sector across 10 provinces in Fiji. Teams of staff and volunteers from these organizations will be undertaking the survey across from early November 2017 to late February 2018.
The survey covers a wide range of fishing-related topics due to the limited information available. We want to know the answers to a lot of questions. For example, where do the women fish and how often? Are they using their catch for food or selling it? What types of seafood (for example finfish, crabs, shellfish) are they catching? How long do they spend fishing at different sites? What barriers do they face in their fishing, in terms of both catching and selling the seafood?
We hope the information gathered from the surveys will assist stakeholders (government and non-government) better recognise the valuable contribution women fishers make to food security and to the national economy. But it is not enough to just recognize – ultimately, we hope that women fishers are provided similar opportunities as fisher men, like for example, to participate in fisheries planning and management, or to receive training and support, or have access to projects and funding to improve their fisheries. We are looking forward to learning as much as we can over the upcoming months from the women who form such a critical backbone for their families, and to our society.