Understanding and promoting women’s roles in EU fisheries and aquaculture

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

Editor’s note: A new resource that just came out adds some additional European context to our article from last month - “Missing half the story: How considering gender can improve ocean conservation and management”. Many thanks to Sophia De Smet of the FARNET Support Unit for sending us this information.

EU Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) are local partnerships that bring together the private sector, local authorities, and civil society organizations to fund projects to address specific local needs and opportunities. A recent report explored FLAG support to women in the EU fisheries and aquaculture industry. They found that:

  • Even though women represent ~27% of the workforce in the EU seafood industry (~100,000 women in 2014), their role in the industry is both understudied and undervalued.
  • For the FLAGs surveyed (113 groups in 17 countries), women comprise 27% of the total seafood industry (primary catch, aquaculture, and processing) workforce. Women are 13% of fishers, 26% of aquaculture farmers, 51% of seafood processors, and conduct 36% of the activities auxiliary to the industry. Only scattered estimates of women’s participation in the industry existed previously, and these numbers correspond quite closely to those estimates. This suggests that these results from the FLAGs may be a first holistic look at women’s employment in the EU seafood industry.
  • There are marked differences in women’s employment in the industry between countries. For example, women comprise 58-80% of the processing workforce in Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, and Sweden but only 26% of the processing employment in Spain. (The total number of women in the seafood processing sector is quite high in Spain relative to the other countries, however, due to the size of the industry in Spain.)
  • As with fisheries businesses in other parts of the world, many (~15%) European small-scale, family-run fisheries also rely on the unpaid work of women for activities such as accounting, banking, marketing, and grant writing.
  • 14% of FLAG projects awarded for the 2014-2020 period had a female project promotor or a primary objective of supporting women. This directed support may be critical to increased incorporation of women’s voices in the industry because the proportion of women at decision-making levels for projects (i.e., serving on FLAG boards) directly correlates with the proportion of projects targeted at supporting women in the fisheries and aquaculture industry.

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