Lessons and Linkages: Building an Analysis of Gender, Globalization and the Fisheries

Article excerpt

GLOBALIZATION HAS AFFECTED fisheries worldwide, as well as the women, men and communities dependent on this resource. Fisheries communities around the world have had common experiences of stock depletion, lost livelihoods, deteriorating conditions of work and disintegration of communities in the wake of new technologies and new management and trade regimes. Though these developments have often not benefited women and their families, there has been little application of a gender and globalization analysis to the case of fisheries. Yet the fishery has long provided an interesting vantage point to explore processes of capital accumulation and relations of class and gender. Insights from previous work on gender and fisheries, globalization and fisheries, and gender and globalization can be a guide to develop a gendered analysis of fisheries workers and communities in the current context. Furthermore, linking the experiences of fishing communities worldwide would contribute to an understanding of globalization in general, its gendered nature and its failure as a basis for sustainable development - in human or ecological terms.

Lessons from Gender and Fisheries Research

As with other work on women and the economy, research on the fishery began by making women's contributions visible - documenting the importance of the unpaid work of women to family fishing enterprises and communities. This work highlighted the relationship between unpaid and paid work, and the need for the contributions of women to be better recognized (whether in social security policy, development policy, or fisheries management policy). Research also focused on the gender division of labour in paid work - in harvesting, processing and distribution - and the gender inequalities that exist in wages, working conditions and access to income support. Issues of intra-household labour allocation, workload and access to income were addressed.

Research on these issues in the fishery has also often been situated in the context of restructuring in the industry. The industrialization of the Atlantic fishery in the postwar era brought women into the plants and changed family work and income patterns; given the gender division of labour in the industry and the community, the pressures of fisheries restructuring in the 1980s differentially affected men and women, as did the crisis and collapse of the groundfishery in the 1990s. 1

Researchers have clearly documented the gendered assumptions and impacts of a host of policies - whether it be access to the resource as a result of fisheries management regulations, access to new technology offered by extension workers, access to income security support, or access to labour adjustment support in the wake of the collapse of a fishery. 2 Policy is not gender neutral, as has been documented in many fishery contexts and communities. The fight for women's fair access and participation has been ongoing. Women have pursued these aims through involvement in both local and international fishery organizations, often encountering resistance within these male-dominated groups.

Thus, a global analysis builds on the foundation of this past work on gender and fisheries which emphasizes making women's contributions visible in the context of ongoing restructuring, challenging the gendered assumptions and impacts of policy, and mobilizing women to work within and alongside fisheries organizations to have their voices heard.

Lessons from Globalization and Fisheries Research

At the simplest level, fisheries restructuring must be placed in the context of broader restructuring, for many of the trends in technology and markets are occurring across industries. A more integrated understanding of the global dynamics of the industry also needs to be developed, for changes in local fisheries or communities can no longer be understood without reference to developments in other countries and on the international policy front. …