Study links Kenyan fisheries sustainability to gender roles

Women are largely working as traders in Kenyan fisheries with the lowest profits and cannot save money, according to a new Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) study.

Published in the journal Ecosystem Health and Sustainability, the study of fish traders in coastal Kenya shows management actions intended to increase profits and sustainability, such as restrictions on use of gear that catch the smallest fish, have the potential to exclude female traders unless management also promotes social equity and gender coexistence.

The study, by Tim McClanahan and Caroline Abunge of WCS Kenya Marine Program, suggests that women have difficulties persisting in the more profitable fisheries, where low numbers of larger fish are caught.

The authors’ findings result from a study of 142 traders in 19 Kenyan coral reef fisheries that varied in their management and profitability.

The low-profit fisheries generally focus on the catch of a large variety of small fish, often at unsustainable levels.

“Ignoring gender in fisheries has the potential to undermine efforts to achieve two social goals: gender equity and fisheries sustainability. Both goals are best achieved when addressed together,” said lead author and Senior Conservation Zoologist Mr McClanahan.

Maintaining resources at intermediate levels where overall production, catch, and fish body size diversity are high, and increasing gear and market diversity will help achieve gender coexistence and sustainability, authors said.

The study found the profitable fisheries requires traders to have capital, use mobile phones to communicate with distance markets, and take risks; behaviours that were more common among the male traders.

In conclusion, it found female traders need capital and greater mobility to reduce their chances of exclusion from more profitable and sustainable fisheries.

They also need better access to fisheries knowledge and general education to help them take more active roles in fisheries management.

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