Tuna is women's business too: Applying a gender lens to four cases in the Western and Central Pacific

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Fish and Fisheries, 2022, 23, (3), pp. 584-600
Issue Date:
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The USD6 billion Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) tuna fisheries produce over half the world's tuna and are important for coastal countries. Tuna fisheries policy, management and research currently focus on fisheries resources and industrial fishing on offshore vessels with all male crews, although women, as much as men, are employed in tuna processing and trading in domestic, informal and export value chains. We apply a gender lens to four WCPO case-study tuna industries: Suva and Levuka in Fiji, Bitung in Indonesia, General Santos City in the Philippines and Western Province including Noro in Solomon Islands. The gender divisions of labour, livelihood opportunities and social impacts vary greatly across the value chain nodes, depending on the size, quantity and quality of fish handled, and the scale of operations. The gender lens also reveals the social impacts of fishing when husbands/fathers/sons are killed or injured, absent for long periods and engage in sex, drugs and alcohol behaviours in port. Despite the centrality of women in tuna industries, and the gendered social impacts, regional and national policies largely omit gender. The tuna discourse should be broadened from that of male-dominated industrial fishing to whole of value chains including domestic and informal enterprises in which women are equally involved. Progress on gender equity needs collaboration by multiple stakeholders including industrial firms employing people in factories, offices and on fishing vessels, regional bodies and national governments responsible for policy, monitoring and regulation, and research agencies to build knowledge.
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