Thursday 23 August 2018

Small-scale fishing families are under threat.

Small-scale fishing families are under threat.

In the UK their vessels make up 80% of the nation’s fishing fleet yet they receive only 4% of the total national fishing quota.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Newfoundland fisheries have been downsized in response to fisheries closures in the early 1990s.

In both locations people who depend upon this industry have been left vulnerable. This includes thousands of women who are vital to the survival of small-scale fishing businesses.

To explore and raise their profile, Women in Fisheries' research project will examine women's roles, identities and wellbeing in fishing families.

Why women?

We need to make women in fishing families visible and allow their voices to be heard. Women hold a range of roles in the fishing community and industry. They also play a vital part in the running of many family fishing businesses.

Yet often unpaid and invisible, the contributions of women members of this industry are commonly undervalued and unrecognised. Women made up 15% of the UK’s fisheries and aquaculture sector in 2012*

But we don’t know what these women - some 1,400 workers in the UK - were actually doing. Research by the European Parliament has shown that there is very poor information on women’s employment in the fish-catching industry, with data often missing or not collected at all.

Whilst we know that women’s direct participation in the fish catching industry is relatively low in the UK, the situation is markedly different in Newfoundland - where 20% of the region’s registered fishers in 2011 were women. Whilst this number is comparatively high, very few women own licenses in their own name and we have little knowledge of these women’s activities.

Evidence suggests UK women are particularly active in fish processing and administration. But with the collapse of Atlantic fish stocks in 1992 (and subsequent ban on cod fishing), Newfoundland women’s employment in these areas was drastically reduced. What are they doing now?

We know they hold many ‘hidden’ roles in coastal communities, such as providing support before and after a catch is landed and looking after children. Research has also shown that women play an important part in supporting the health and wellbeing of their fishing partners and fathers. On both sides of the Atlantic there is not enough knowledge about the vital roles women are fulfilling.

It is also increasingly common for women to have employment outside of fishing. This change towards families seeking a second income has been linked with a drop in the profitability of fishing due to, for example, tighter regulations and a changing market. As a consequence, in many cases women’s non-fishing income has made them the primary ‘breadwinners’ of the family.

Research has suggested women’s employment outside of the fishing home has not led to a change in their childcare duties, placing a significant burden on their time and responsibilities. We want to understand how fishing families can be supported to evolve and flourish in a changing political and environmental landscape. Getting to grips with the invisible and unknown roles of women is central to this goal.

Take part:

We want to hear about your experiences of life in a fishing family.
If you'd like to participate in this study you must be over the age of 18 and be or have been part of a small-scale fishing family (using boats under 10 metres).

We want to include participants from both Newfoundland in Canada and from across the UK. We’d like to hear from a broad range of people who hold different roles in fishing families, communities and the fishing industry.

We'll be conducting interviews in Newfoundland in summer 2018 and starting in the UK in early 2019. Conversations are strictly confidential and we can come to you at a time that suits you best.

If you'd like to take part, please get in touch by emailing or filling in the form here.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, it is being conducted at the University of Exeter Medical School and runs until the end of 2020.