Access and institutions in a small-scale octopus fishery: A gendered perspective
The importance of institutions in structuring access to resources is well documented. However, despite the depth of the research, few studies have examined this systematically at the level of an individual fishing activity or, more specifically, within a women's fishery. This paper explores how fisherwomen access octopuses in a small-scale fishery in Mozambique, within a context where an increasing number of conservation initiatives are targeting women's fisheries and could potentially affect fisherwomen's access. The study was conducted within the Quirimbas National Park (QNP) in Cado Delgado, the northern most province of Mozambique. Combining ethnographic fieldwork and an institutional access map as a conceptual framework, this paper provides insight into the multiple institutions that structure how octopus fishing is organised and performed by fisherwomen. The access map reveals the dominant role local normative institutions play in influencing fisherwomen's access to income from fishing for octopus. Purdah, the religious practice of securing a woman's honour, is identified as a key restraining institution that is enforced through unequal gender relations. The paper encourages an understanding of the institutional context of fishing practices in order to promote access in small-scale fisheries (SSFs) to ensure fishers continue to benefit from the fishery in the face of management. The paper concludes that a greater appreciation of power relations – encapsulated in this study by gender relations – is required to further develop institutional analyses in small-scale fisheries policies and management.