EPRSLibrary By / October 14, 2013

Women and fisheries in the European Union

In most fishing communities, women play a key role in fisheries and in maintaining households and communities. Yet, they remain…

© GiZGRAPHICS / Fotolia

In most fishing communities, women play a key role in fisheries and in maintaining households and communities. Yet, they remain largely invisible, and their roles unacknowledged.

In Europe, over 100,000 women are statistically recorded as being employed in the fisheries sector; however it is still hard to measure their contribution. Statistics overlook women who work part or full time for the family business without legal recognition or associated social benefits.

Women do not have a specific place in the framework of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, which AKTEA, the European Network of women’s organisations in fisheries and aquaculture complained about in the past. But the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund recognises for the first time the role that women often play in the family fishing business. Thus, they will benefit from EMFF support for training, in particular for the acquisition of skills linked to entrepreneurship and business management.

Women and fisheries in the European Union
© GiZGRAPHICS / Fotolia

Aware that the role of women in the fisheries sector is not well recognised in the meantime and can be further developed, the European Parliament organised in 2010 a public hearing on Women and the Sustainable Development of Fisheries Areas where several members of women’s networks presented their work and role within the European fisheries sector. This year, the EP started an own-initiative procedure: 2013/2150(COD) on specific actions in the Common Fisheries Policy for developing the role of women. To prepare the report, the EP is organising another public hearing on Developing the role of Women in European Fisheries and Aquaculture on 14 October 2013.

The key sources here gather together recent publications about women and fisheries in Europe. After a general overview at international level, the file is divided in two parts: one presents analysis at EU level and the other one at country level. In addition, useful websites and networks are indicated.



Mettre en lumière la question du genre dans l’aquaculture et la pêche: compte rendu du troisième Symposium international sur le genre dans l’aquaculture et la pêche / Meryl J. Williams, Hina, les femmes et la pêche, Bulletin de la CPS n° 22, Octobre 2012, p. 19-28.
Organisé dans le cadre du neuvième Forum asiatique sur les pêches et l’aquaculture qui s’est tenu à la Shanghai Ocean University du 21 au 23 avril 2011, le troisième Symposium international sur le genre dans l’aquaculture et la pêche de la Société asiatique des pêches (AFS) a permis de mettre en lumière le fossé qui existe entre hommes et femmes dans le secteur halieutique. Ce symposium sur les femmes/le genre a attiré un nombre record d’exposés et suscité de vifs débats. Il a été suivi d’un séminaire spécial de la FAO sur les orientations futures pour le genre dans les actions, la recherche et le développement en matière d’aquaculture et de pêche (voir rapport ci-dessous).

Report of FAO Workshop on Future Directions for Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries Action, Research and Development. Shanghai, China, 23-24 April 2011, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Report. No. 998, Rome, FAO. 2012. 28 pp.
This workshop was organised with a goal to generate strategic ideas and actions that could be used to develop a «road map» for future directions on gender in aquaculture and fisheries. The workshop identified a number of important key gender concepts and how they relate to research, required tools and data.

Recasting the net: Defining a Gender Agenda for Sustaining Life and Livelihoods in Fishing Communities, International workshop from 7 to 10 July 2010, Mahabalipuram, India.
The objectives of this workshop was to: 1) Analyze the impact of current developments within and outside fisheries on life and livelihood in fishing communities, locating women’s experiences in the context of these developments;2) Share local agendas and strategies of women’s organizations in fisheries, taking stock of achievements and obstacles; 3) Define an agenda and strategies for sustaining life and livelihood in fisheries into the future.

Information available also in ES and FR.


Counting Women’s Participation in EU Aquaculture / Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries post, May 2013
A new EU report on the European Union member countries’ aquaculture sector contains some basic gender-disaggregated data on employment in the production segment of aquaculture. Although the statistics are incomplete, they nevertheless provide some useful information. Women’s participation varied greatly by country and the EU averages tended to be dominated by patterns in France and Spain.

Women in the EU Fish Processing Economy / Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries post, May 2013
EU 2011 employment statistics show that women and men are almost evenly balanced, in terms of numbers of fish processing jobs. Looking at different countries, however, the figures differ. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have more than 60% women fish processing employees, whereas Malta and the UK have more than 60% of men employees. In Europe, fish processing employs about 150,000 people. France, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom supported the largest workforces, with more than 10,000 each.

ICSF-AKTEA WIF 2010:Strengthening the voice of women of fishing communities in Europe /  Cornelie Quist, Katia Frangoudes, Brian O’Riordan, Mai 2010, 55 p.
This report contains a summary of the workshop of 13/02/2010 about “Recasting the net: defining a gender agenda for sustaining life and livelihoods in fisheries and aquaculture” and the synthesis reports by countries: Azores (Portugal), France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Northern Ireland (UK), Portugal, Spain. French version of the workshop’s summary.


Women in fisheries: a European perspective / Katia Frangoudes, Policy Department B: Strucutral and Cohesion Policies, Fisheries, Note, 2013, 44 p.
This note gives an overview of the current situation faced by women in the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Europe and the prerequisites for improved gender mainstreaming. It presents and discusses the available data on female employment in the sector, the problems faced by women’s fisheries organisations and their future prospects. The note also proposes that the impact of the EFF on the promotion of gender equality should be evaluated, and outlines the expectations vested in the EMFF.

Women and fisheries: Contribution to food security and local economies / Sarah Harper, Dirk Zeller, Melissa Hauzer, Daniel Pauly, Ussif Rashid Sumaila, Marine Policy vol. 39, May 2013, p. 56-63.
The substantial role of women in fisheries is overlooked in management and policy. Fortunately, it is gaining recognition despite a lack of quantitative data describing the scale of participation and contribution. This work summarizes existing knowledge on women’s participation in marine fisheries globally, and estimates their contribution in the Pacific. While women’s role varies between geographic regions, in the Pacific, women account for 56% of annual small-scale catches, and resulting in an economic impact of 363 million USD (total revenue: 110 million USD). Recognizing and quantifying the role of women in fisheries has profound implications for management, poverty alleviation and development policy.

Part dedicated to Europe on p.57-58.

Women’s contribution in small-scale fisheries in the European Union / Katia Frangoudes, in World Small-scale fisheries contemporary visions, Ratana Chuenpagdee, 2011, chapter 6,  p. 106-115.
In this chapter, the author presents the prominent role of women in income and livelihood diversification, and how legislation can facilitate or inhibit their contribution in European small-scale fisheries.

The role of the women in the sustainable development of european fisheries areas / Katia Frangoudes et al., Policy Department B, Structural and Cohesion Policies, Study, May 2008, 82 p.
Women play an important role in fisheries, including fishing, aquaculture and processing of aquatic products. They have been very active in self-organizing and networking to promote gender equality in many different areas across Europe. They are also a major actor in the diversification of fisheries enterprises income, resulting in the creation of new opportunities in fisheries areas affected by the decline of fishing. The report reviews best practices observed in the fishing areas of 14 EU countries. It also recommends actions for use of the European Fisheries Fund as an instrument to support and promote initiatives for women in European Fisheries Areas, particularly under axis 4 of the EFF.

Countries examples


La diversification des activités de pêche : une affaire familiale, en particulier des conjointes. Synthèse. Programme Interreg Manche – CHARM 3 / Katia Frangoudes, Laura Mars Henichart, Marie Lesueur, 2012, Les publications du Pôle halieutique AGROCAMPUS OUEST, 4 p.
Dans le cadre du projet franco-britannique – CHARM 3 (CHannel integrated Approach for marine Resource Management – phase 3) – programme européen de coopération transfrontalière INTERREG – le Pôle halieutique AGROCAMPUS OUEST a mené une étude sur la façade de la Manche pour mieux connaître la pratique et les stratégies de mise en œuvre des activités de diversification. On entend par diversification des activités « la pratique d’une ou plusieurs activités complémentaires à la production (représentant moins de 50 % du chiffre d’affaires), en lien avec le produit, le métier ou la structure d’exploitation ».

Maritime sectors: more women joining the ranks / Fisheries and Aquaculture in Europe, n° 51, May 2011, p. 10-11.
In the collective imagination, maritime occupations have always been a male stronghold. Yet women’s role and status in maritime activities have evolved considerably over the last 20 years, whether in terms of legal status, access to jobs or visibility. Since 2009, the FEMMAR project at the University of Nantes has teamed up researchers from different disciplines to study the sociological, legal, economic and geographical processes related to these developments and to understand the paradoxes that sometimes result.

Women in Artisanal Fisheries in Brittany, France / Katia Frangoudes and Enora Keromnes, Development, n° 51, 2008, p. 265-270.
French fishers’ wives play an important role within fisheries enterprises by realizing different tasks such as administration, repairing fishing gear and selling fish. This informal contribution became legally recognized with the creation of collaborative spouse status (CSS) in 1998. Katia Frangoudes and Enora Keromnes discuss the diverse contributions of women to Brittany fisheries and the reasons that push women to opt or not opt for legal status.


Women as agents of wellbeing in Northern Ireland’s fishing households / Easkey Britton, Maritime Studies 2012, 22 p.
This paper focuses on the gender dimensions of wellbeing in fishing households in Northern Ireland. The impact of change in the fishing industry on women’s wellbeing is outlined and linkages are made between changing access to fish and changing roles of women in fishing households. The paper explores what this change means for how women perceive and pursue their wellbeing needs and aspirations and how they negotiate their needs with the needs of the household. In an occupation as gender biased as fishing it is argued that in order for fisheries management and policy to be successful, a profile of what really matters to people is important. In particular, the paper highlights how such priorities link to the complex and dynamic role of women in fishing households.


Mirando al futuro: Emprendimiento y liderazgo, 5 & 6 de Junio  2013, Santiago de Compostela, III Congreso de la Red española de mujeres en el sector pesquero:

Empoderamiento femenino en contextos de gobernanza /  Patricia Martínez García, Revista de la escuela jacobea de Posgrado, n° 2, Junion 2012, p. 55-72.
El objetivo de este trabajo es establecer la relación entre contextos de gobernanza y el empoderamiento femenino partiendo del caso de estudio de las rederas gallegas. Ante la marginación y precariedad de los colectivos feminizados en el sector pesquero y los crecientes problemas derivados de esta situación, la Xunta de Galicia reorientó la elaboración de políticas públicas hacia una mayor interlocución con los grupos afectados. En este sentido, se inició un proceso de organización y formación con las rederas gallegas, incorporándolas a las redes políticas de toma de decisiones y a la resolución de sus problemas.

From open access to co-governance and conservation: The case of women shellfish collectors in Galicia (Spain) /  Katia Frangoudes, Begoña Marugán-Pintos, José J. Pascual-Fernández, Marine Policy, vol. 32, n° 2, March 2008, p. 223-232.
This paper attempts to analyze the process of transformation of on-foot shellfish gathering in Galicia, an activity that has traditionally been developed mainly by women in a regime similar to an open access regime. However, in recent decades this situation has changed, and nowadays many areas where this activity flourishes are in a situation of active co-governance, with a type of license system. Shellfisher organizations plan and control the exploitation with the support of the government, even using seeding techniques to regenerate areas that were previously degraded. Over the last decade, they have avoided overexploitation and have managed the marketing of the shellfish much better than ever before. We emphasize in the article that the role of the administration in this process has been decisive, investing in training and improving the organizations and the social dimension of the activity through different strategies. The empowerment of women has been an essential element in this process, which has also enhanced social valuation of the activity. This case may exemplify the possibilities open for progress in potential co-governing situations.


Women as visible and invisible workers in fisheries: A case study of Northern England / Minghu Zhao, Marilyn Tyzack, Rodney Anderson, Estera Onoakpovike, Marine Policy, vol. 37, January 2013, p. 69-76.
This paper is based on an externally-funded research project on women’s roles and contributions in fisheries conducted in Northern England in 2010. The paper analyses some of the major roles played by women and their contribution in four selected sectors: capture fishing, families and communities, trading, processing and management/administration.

Women in fisheries – final report, 30 April 2010 / IRIS & Greenwich Maritime Institute, [59] p.
Women play a wide range of roles in the fisheries industry making significant contributions across sectors. However, there is a significant gap in knowledge about women in English fisheries today, as identified in our literature review conducted at the early stage of this study. This study aims to help close this knowledge gap and to inform policy making with evidence-based information collected and analysed by the Women in Fisheries (WIF) Team from Greenwich Maritime Institute, The University of Greenwich and IRIS Consulting between January and April, 2010.

Final report appendix: Women in fisheries (stage 1 Report), 25 p. 

Useful websites


This website, Genderaquafish.org, is devoted to the exchange of information on gender in aquaculture and fisheries from all parts of the world. Supported by the informal Asian Fisheries Society group on the same theme, it welcomes contributions, links and comments, from researchers and other experts with professional interests in furthering gender research in aquaculture and fisheries development. We have a world-wide interest in what is happening on gender in aquaculture and fisheries.

ICSF International Collective in Support of Fishworkers
Look at the part titled: Women in fisheries: this file contains a lot of information at international level.



  • AKTEA – European Network of women’s organisations in fisheries and aquaculture

Fisherwomen organisations in Europe advocating for fisherwomen rights / Katia Frangoudes, UMR/ARMURE, University of Brest, France, 2011, 15 p.
This presentation underscores the role of the network AKTEA.

    The European Fisheries Areas Network (FARNET) brings together all fisheries areas supported by priority Axis 4 of the European Fisheries Fund (EFF). Through information exchange and a dedicated support unit, this network aims to assist the different stakeholders involved in the sustainable development of fisheries areas at local, regional, national and European level.
    Please find hereafter a link to the
     FARNET website where you can find some examples of good practices for the development of the fisheries at different levels (local, regional, national and European) including the role of women.


  • Red Española de Mujeres en el Sector Pesquero (ES)
    La Red Española de Mujeres en el Sector Pesquero es una organización de carácter nacional promovida por el Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente, a través de la Secretaría General de Pesca, con el objetivo de impulsar el papel de la mujer en el sector pesquero, el asociacionismo, la comunicación y el intercambio de iniciativas y mejores prácticas entre las mujeres que trabajan o desean trabajar en el ámbito de la pesca. 



  • Ilhas em Rede
    Aqui se expõe actividades e noticias da Rede de Mulheres na Pesca do arquipélago dos Açores. A Ilhas em Rede, Associação de Mulheres da Pesca nos Açores integra duas sócias colectivas: AMPA, Associação de Mulheres de Pescadores e Armadores da Terceira e UMAR-Açores, Associação para a Igualdade e Direitos das Mulheres
  • UMAR-Açores
    See the page dedicated to the network Mulheres na Pesca:Page dedicated to Pesca

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