Fish Is Women’s Business Too: Looking at Marine Resource Use Through a Gender Lens

  • Kathleen Schwerdtner Máñez
  • Annet Pauwelussen


The majority of studies in fisheries history have turned a blind eye on the role of women. This is mainly a result of the roles that most societies have traditionally allocated to men and women, with fisheries usually perceived as a male domain. However, women have always had a major influence on fishing practices and fish trade: as harvesters and collectors of marine resources, as processors and traders, and as central actors in informal networks that are especially relevant for small-scale fisheries. This chapter analyses gendered processes in fisheries, by shedding light on the manifold roles of women, in order to complement and challenge the results of historical fisheries research. It reviews studies on fisheries, gender and history, and provides a systematic overview on important aspects pertaining to women’s role in fisheries. It also contains a case study on giant clam collection and trade in Indonesia which illuminates how women have influenced and sustained fisheries in practise, and through time.


Gender lens Gendered processes in fisheries Fisheries history Bajau Indonesia 


  1. Abreu-Ferreira, D. (2000). Fishmongers and shipowners: Women in maritime communities of early modern Portugal. The Sixteenth Century Journal, 31(1), 7–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allison, E.H. (2013). Maritime masculinities – And why they matter for management. Paper presented at the Conference People and the Sea VII, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  3. Allison, E. H., & Seeley, J. A. (2004). HIV and AIDS among fisherfolk: A threat to ‘responsible fisheries’? Fish and Fisheries, 5(3), 215–234. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2679.2004.00153.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baillie, J. E. M., Hilton-Taylor, C., & Stuart, N. S. (2004). IUCN red list of threatened species™. A global species assessment. Cambridge: IUCN Publication Services Unit.Google Scholar
  5. Béné, C., & Merten, S. (2008). Women and fish-for-sex: Transactional sex, HIV/AIDS and gender in African fisheries. World Development, 36(5), 875–899.Google Scholar
  6. Bennett, E. (2005). Gender, fisheries and development. Marine Policy, 29, 451–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berggreen, B. (1979). Kvinner i maritime naeringar. Syn og Segn, 3, 163–176.Google Scholar
  8. Binkley, M. (2005). The bitter end. Women’s crucial role in the Nova Scotia coastal fishery. In B. Neis, M. Binkley, S. Gerrard, & M. C. Maneschy (Eds.), Changing tides. Gender, fisheries and globalisation (pp. 64–77). Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.Google Scholar
  9. Buck, P.H. (1930). Samoan material culture. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Bulletin 75, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii.Google Scholar
  10. Chapman, M. D. (1987). Women’s fishing in Oceania. Human Ecology, 15(3), 267–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Choos, P. S., Nowak, B. S., Kusakabe, K., & Williams, M. J. (2008). Guest editorial: Gender and fisheries. Development, 51, 176–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chou, C. G. H. (2006). Research trends on Southeast Asian Sea nomads. Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, 7, 1–11.Google Scholar
  13. Clay, P. M., & Olson, J. (2007). Defining fishing communities: Issues in theory and practise. NAPA Bulletin, 28, 27–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clifton, J., & Majors, C. (2012). Culture, conservation, and conflict: Perspectives on marine protection among the Bajau of Southeast Asia. Society & Natural Resources, 25(7)Google Scholar
  15. Cole, S. C. (1991). Women of the Praia: Work and lives in a Portuguese coastal community. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Davis, N. Z. (1975). Women’s history in transition: The European case. Feminist Studies, 3, 83–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davis, D.L. & Gerrard, S. (2000). Women and the fisheries crisis. Women’s Studies International Forum, 27(3). Special issue.Google Scholar
  18. DKP Dinas Kelautan dan Perikanan. (2012). Laporan statistik perikanan 2011. Dinas Kelautan dan Perikanan Kabupaten Berau, Tanjung Redeb, Berau.Google Scholar
  19. Endemano Walker, B. L. (2002). Engendering Ghana’s seascape: Fanti fishtraders and marine property in colonial history. Society and Natural Resources, 15, 389–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Firth, R. (1957). We, the Tikopia. London: George Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  21. Fischer, L. R., Hamre, H., Holm, P., & Bruijn, J. R. (1992). The North sea. Twelve essays on social history of maritime labour. Stavanger: Stavanger Maritime Museum, Association of North Sea Societies.Google Scholar
  22. Frangoudes, K., Marugán-Pintos, B., & Pascual-Fernández, J. J. (2008). From open access to co-governance and conservation: The case of women shellfish collectors in Galicia (Spain). Marine Policy, 32(2), 223–232.Google Scholar
  23. Fröcklin, S., de la Torre-Castro, M., Lindström, L., & Jiddawi, N. (2013). Fish traders as key actors in fisheries: Gender and adaptive management. Ambio, 42, 951–962.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gaynor, J. L. (2010). Flexible fishing: Gender and the new spatial division of labor in eastern Indonesia’s rural littoral. Radical History Review, 107, 74–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gunawan, B. I. (2012). Shrimp fisheries and aquaculture: Making a living in the coastal frontier of Berau Indonesia: Wageningen University, Wageningen.Google Scholar
  26. Handy, E.S.C. (1923). The native culture in the Marquesas, Honolulu. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Bulletin 9, Pernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii.Google Scholar
  27. Harper, S., Zeller, D., Hauzer, M., Pauly, D., & Sumaila, U. R. (2013). Women and fisheries: Contribution to food security and local economies. Marine Policy, 39, 56–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hauzer, M., Dearden, P., & Murray, G. (2013). The fisherwomen of Ngazidja island, Comoros: Fisheries livelihoods, impacts, and implications for management. Fisheries Research, 140(0), 28–35.Google Scholar
  29. Kato, K. (2006). Waiting for the tide, tuning the world. Paper presented at the the 2nd international small Island cultures conference, Norfolk.Google Scholar
  30. Kelkar, M. (2007). Local knowledge and natural resource management: A gender perspective. Indian Journal of Gender Studies, 14(2), 295–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Krom, J. S. (1940). Memorie van overgave van de controleur van de onderafdeling Beraoe. Leiden: KITLV.Google Scholar
  32. Kronen, M., & Vunisea, A. (2007). Women never hunt – but fish: Highlighting equality for women in policy formulation and strategic planning in the coastal fisheries sector in Pacific Island countries. SPC Women in Fisheries Information Bulletin, 17, 3–15.Google Scholar
  33. Löfgren, O. (1979). Marine ecotypes in preindustrial Sweden: A comparative discussion of Swedish peasant fishermen. In R. Andersen (Ed.), North Atlantic maritime cultures: Anthropological essays on changing adaptions. The Hague: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  34. MacGregor, G. (1937). Ethnology of Tokelau Islands. Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Bulletin 146, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii.Google Scholar
  35. Maneschy, M. C., & Alvares, M. L. (2005). Identities in construction and in conflict. Restructuring and the social roles of women in the fishing communities of Pará State, Brazil. In B. Neis, M. Binkley, S. Gerrard, & M. C. Maneschy (Eds.), Changing tides. Gender, fisheries and globalisation (pp. 51–63). Halifax: Fernwood Publishers.Google Scholar
  36. McCay, B. (1993). Fisherwomen, fisheries policy, and maritime anthropology. Reviews in Antropology, 22, 77–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McGrath, C., Neis, B., & Porter, M. (1995). Their lives and times: Women in Newfoundland and Labrador: A collage. St. John’s: Killick Press.Google Scholar
  38. Meltzoff, S. K. (1995). Marisquadoras of the shellfish revolution: The rise of women in co-management on Illa de Arousa, Galicia. Journal of Political Ecology, 2, 20–38.Google Scholar
  39. Morrison, J. (1993). Bajau gender: A study of the effects of socio-economic change on gender relations in a fishing community of Sabah, East Malaysia. Department of Sociology, The University of Hull.Google Scholar
  40. Muszynski, A. (2005). Globalizing fisheries in an historical context: The Salmon canning industry of British Columbia. In B. Neis, M. Binkley, S. Gerrard, & M. C. Maneschy (Eds.), Changing tides. Gender, fisheries and globalisation (pp. 98–113). Halifax: Fernwood Publishers.Google Scholar
  41. Nadal-Klein, J. (1988). A fisher laddie needs a fisher lassie: Endogamy and work in a Scottish fishing village. In J. Nadal-Klein & D. L. Davis (Eds.), To work and to weep (pp. 190–210). Newfoundland: Institute of Social and Economic Research Memorial University of Newfoundland.Google Scholar
  42. Nadal-Klein, J., & Davis, D. L. (1988). To work and to weep. In Social and economic papers. St. John’s: Institute of Social and Economic Research, and Memorial University of Newfoundland.Google Scholar
  43. Neis, B., Binkley, M., Gerrard, S., & Maneschy, M. C. (2005). Changing tides. Gender, fisheries and globalisation. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.Google Scholar
  44. Nolde, L. (2009). “Great is Our Relationship with the Sea”. Charting the Maritime Realm of the Sama of Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. Explorations: A graduate student journal of Southeast Asian studies, 9, 15–33.Google Scholar
  45. Oliver, D. L. (1989). Oceania: The native cultures of Australia and the Pacific Islands. Honululu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  46. Overå, R. (2003). Gender ideology and manoeuvering space for female fisheries entrepreneurs. Research Review, 19(2), 49–66.Google Scholar
  47. Pauwelussen, A. (2015). The moves of a Bajau middlewoman: Exploring the disparity between trade networks and marine conservation. Anthropological Forum, 25(4), 329–349. doi: 10.1080/00664677.2015.1054343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pauwelussen, A. (2016). Community as network: Exploring a relational approach to social resilience in coastal Indonesia. Maritime Studies, 15, 2. [online] doi: 10.1186/s40152-016-0041-5
  49. Pelras, C. (1996). The Bugis. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  50. Pollnac, R. (1984). The divison of labor by sex in fishing communities (Anthropology Working Paper). International Center for Marine Resources Development University of Rhode Island.Google Scholar
  51. Resurreccion, B. P. (2008). Mainstreaming gender in community fisheries in the Tonle Sap: Three myths. In M. Kummu, M. Keskinen, & O. Varis (Eds.), Modern myths of the Mekong: A critical review of water and development concepts, principles and policies (pp. 65–77). Helsinki: Water & Development Research Group, Helsinki University of Technology.Google Scholar
  52. Saat, G. (2003). The identity and social mobility of Sama-Bajau. Sari, 21, 3–11.Google Scholar
  53. Sather, C. (1997). The Bajau Laut: Adaptation, history, and fate in a maritime fishing society of south eastern Sabah. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Sather, C. (2002). Commodity trade and maritime nomadism in southeast Sabah. Nomadic Peoples, 6(1), 20–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Scott, J. W. (1986). Gender: A useful category of historical analysis. The American Historical Review, 91(5), 1053–1075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Scott, E. M. (1994). Those of little note: Gender, race, and class in historical archaeology. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.Google Scholar
  57. Seeley, J. A., & Allison, E. H. (2005). HIV/AIDS in fishing communities: Challenges to delivering antiretroviral therapy to vulnerable groups. AIDS Care, 17(6), 688–697. doi: 10.1080/09540120412331336698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Siason, I. M. (2012). Women in fisheries in the Philippines. Paper presented at the Symposium on women in Asian fisheries, Chiangmai, Thailand.Google Scholar
  59. Thompson, P. (1985). Women in the fishing: The roots of power between the sexes. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 27(1), 3–32.Google Scholar
  60. Tvedten, I., & Hersoug, B. (1992). Fishing for development: Small-scale fisheries in Africa. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitute (TheScandinavian Institute of African Studies).Google Scholar
  61. Volkman, T. A. (1994). Our garden is the sea: Contingency and improvisation in Mandar women’s work. Amercian Ethnologist, 21(3), 564–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vunisea, A. (1997). Women’s fishing participation in Fiji. SPC Women-in-Fisheries Information Bulletin, 1, 10–13.Google Scholar
  63. Vunisea, A. (2005). Women’s changing roles in the subsistence fishing sector in Fiji. In I. Novaczek, J. Mitchell, & J. Vietayaki (Eds.), Pacific voices: Equity and sustainability in Pacific Island fisheries (pp. 89–105). Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of South Pacific.Google Scholar
  64. Warren, C. (1980). Consciousness in social transformation: The Bajau Laut of east Malaysia. Dialectic Anthropology, 5(3), 227–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Weeratunge, N., Snyder, K. A., & Sze, C. P. (2010). Gleaner, fisher, trader, processor: Understanding gendered employment in fisheries and aquaculture. Fish and Fisheries, 11(4), 405–420.Google Scholar
  66. Williams, M. J. (2008). Why look at fisheries through a gender lens? Development, 51, 180–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Williams, M. J., Nandeesha, M. C., & Choo, P. S. (2006). Changing traditions: A summary report on the first global look at the gender dimensions of fisheries. In P. S. Choo, S. Hall, & M. J. Williams (Eds.), Global symposium on gender and fisheries (pp. 1–6). Penang: The World Fish Center.Google Scholar
  68. Wit, A. d. (2008). Leven, Werken en Geloven in Zeevarende Gemeenschappen. Schiedam, Maassluis en Ter Heijde in de zeventiende eeuw. Amsterdam: Aksant Publishers.Google Scholar
  69. Yodanis, C. L. (2000). Constructing gender and occupational segregation: a study of women and work in fishing communities. Qualitative Sociology, 23(3), 267–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zhao, M., Tyzack, M., Anderson, R., & Onoakpovike, E. (2013). Women as visible and invisible workers in fisheries: A case study of Northern England. Marine Policy, 37(0), 69–76.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathleen Schwerdtner Máñez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Annet Pauwelussen
    • 3
  1. 1.Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT)BremenGermany
  2. 2.Asia Research CenterMurdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  3. 3.Wageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations