Understanding Gender and Factors Affecting Fishing in an Artisanal Shellfish Fishery
Fishing strategies, effort and harvests of small-scale fishers are important to understand for effective planning of regulatory measures and development programs. Gender differences in fishing can highlight inequities deserving transformative solutions, but might mask other important factors. We examined fishing modes, fishing frequency, catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE), resource preferences and perceptions of fishery stock among artisanal gastropod (trochus) fishers in Samoa using structured questionnaires and mixed effects models. The fishery has an extremely modest carbon footprint of 18–23 tons of CO2 p.a., as few fishers used motorized boats. Trochus (Rochia nilotica), an introduced gastropod, was the second-most harvested resource, after fish, despite populations only being established in the past decade. Daily catch volume varied according to gender and villages (n = 34), and was also affected by fishing effort, experience, assets (boat), and fishing costs of fishers. Boat users had much higher CPUE than fishers without a boat. Fishers who practised both gleaning and diving caught a greater diversity of marine resources; effects that explained otherwise seeming gender disparities. Trochus tended to be ranked more important (by catch volume) by women than men, and rank importance varied greatly among villages. Local ecological knowledge of fishers informed the historical colonization of trochus around Samoa and current trends in population abundance. Fishing efficiency, catch diversity and perspectives about stocks were similar between fishermen and fisherwomen, when accounting for other explanatory variables. Greater importance of these shellfish to women, and gender similarities in many of the fishing responses, underscore the need to ensure equal representation of women in the decision making in small-scale fisheries.