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

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Perspectives on Oceans Past

Abstract

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.

To be a women is not to be a fisher(man) (Yodanis 2000).

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 5, year 1990 on the Conservation of Natural Resources and Ecosystems, and Appendix Indonesian Government Regulation No. 7, year 1999: Types of Plants and Fauna.

  2. 2.

    The research was set up as a multi-sited ethnography. Whereas all three of Berau’s inhabited islands were involved in the research as fieldwork locations, one island functioned as base from where different trips and visits were made elsewhere. Because the commercial exploitation of giant clams is officially banned in Indonesia the names of places and people are not given here, in order to protect research informants.

  3. 3.

    To illustrate: When the researcher asked around for giant clam traders, people mostly directed her to male traders first. But when asking these men about the clam trade (price, organization, logistics) they referred the researcher to their wives instead, saying something like: ‘for the specifics you’ll have to ask my wife, it’s her business’.

  4. 4.

    In 2012, 1 k of sun-dried clams was worth 100.000 IDR to 130.000 IDR on the island (8–11 Euros at that time).

  5. 5.

    Providing the women with fishing or household products that she imports from Malaysia.

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Correspondence to Kathleen Schwerdtner Máñez .

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Máñez, K.S., Pauwelussen, A. (2016). Fish Is Women’s Business Too: Looking at Marine Resource Use Through a Gender Lens. In: Schwerdtner Máñez, K., Poulsen, B. (eds) Perspectives on Oceans Past. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-7496-3_11

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