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Invisible work, ignored knowledge? Changing gender roles, division of labor, and household strategies in Finnish small-scale fisheries

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The roles of women, men, and other family members have changed during the history of Finnish small-scale fisheries. Generally, the most significant unit of the livelihood is the household, but fisheries have been of major importance also in the local community. Cooperation in fisheries has been quite common and in the past local community provided also employees for fish processing factories. Today, many coastal fisher families process their own catches and sell the products directly to consumers in fish marketing events. In this marketing strategy, women are typically in core role, although quite often women’s labor can be considered as “invisible work.” Today 9% of Finnish small-scale fishers are women. In many cases, fishing is not the only source-generating income in a fisher household, and often the wife of the family earns a steady income that keeps up opportunities to sustain the uncertain fishing livelihood. In our article, we examine women’s and men’s participation and roles in fisheries households and communities. We also study how these roles have changed over time and in what way are women’s and men’s contribution represented in statistics, politics and research. The study rests on case analyses and a collection of literature and interviews.

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  1. The term fisherwoman (“fiskekvinna” in Swedish) refers here to women who play an active role in a fishing household.

  2. Fishing activities include fish capturing, processing, marketing, and gear maintenance.

  3. The new Finnish individual transferable quota system applies to trawl fisheries for herring and sprat and to coastal herring trap net fisheries and salmon fisheries. The general principle, including a few exceptions, is that both the use right (share of the total quota) and the annual quota can be sold. New entrants, including fishing household members who have not been registered previously as a fisher, receive a non-transferable quota for a 5-year period.


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We would like to thank the reviewers for valuable suggestions to strengthen the argument presented in this paper. This article is based upon work from COST Action Oceans Past Platform, supported by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology).

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Correspondence to Pekka Salmi.

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This paper belongs to Topical Collection (En)Gendering Change in Small-scale Fisheries and Fishing Communities in a Globalized World

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Salmi, P., Sonck-Rautio, K. Invisible work, ignored knowledge? Changing gender roles, division of labor, and household strategies in Finnish small-scale fisheries. Maritime Studies 17, 213–221 (2018).

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