Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

As we are entering 2020, a decade remains before reaching the United Nations Development Goals. The international Organisation for women in the seafood industry (WSI) calls for a massive movement in favour of gender equality and women empowerment (SDG5) in the seafood industry. WSI concretely ask stakeholders to join WSI and become gender equality champions. Because the seafood industry is worth it!

SDG 5 in fisheries and aquaculture

In September 2015, the United Nations led a process seeking to end poverty, to fight inequality including gender inequality, and tackle the climate crisis. It resulted in the worldwide adoption of 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Gender equality and women empowerment to be fixed by 2030.

The fisheries and aquaculture industries have developed numerous actions to reach SDG 14 (Seas and marine resource sustainability) but what has been done along the road of gender justice? Reports on the issue (WSI Watch 2017, 2019) tell us that as of yet not much has been initiated and even less has been achieved.

If the seafood industry were a country, it would be one of the most gender unequal in the world, where gender inequality takes different pervasive forms. The most frequent ones include:

  • Invisibility: Women’s contributions to the industry are in many cases not taken into account, and remain invisible in national and sectoral statistics. Unpaid or underpaid auxiliary work allows fishing activities by men continue even when the activity is not profitable (mending nets, administration, selling). Women’s labour here are to be considered as hidden subsidies.
  • Exclusions: By law, by habits, by tradition in all but a handful of progressive countries, women are excluded from decision-making arenas, from being elected in representative bodies, from public policy designing.
  • Discriminations: Women meet impediments to accessing inputs such as financial capital, bank loans, new technology and immaterial capital such as training. Stereotypes and social norms prevent women from getting some jobs, such as fishers, high profile and well-paid jobs. Did you know that women presently occupy 90% of all jobs in the labour-intensive seafood processing industry but less than 10% of corporate board members and 1% of CEOs? They even are grossly underrepresented as speakers at conferences. And we should all remember that family burdens lie disproportionately (time, cost) on women shoulders.
Let us be ambitious together

The leaders of the industry, male in most cases, are unaware of the actual gender imbalances that exist and the detrimental impact these have on the entire business. According to WSI survey, 55 per cent of male leaders consider that this problem is solved. 85 per cent agree they don’t pay attention to it. In reality, it is not solved and WSI calls for action without delay if SDG 5 is to be met.

Because the cost of inaction will be bigger than the cost of action, because gender equalities clearly benefit both people and the business, WSI is calling on all fishing and aquaculture stakeholders, corporates, administration, professional organisations and NGOs to help them through concrete projects to progress gender balance in the sector. Let us be ambitious together.