Exploring the changing role(s), identities and wellbeing of women in small-scale fishing families

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Institute of Health Research

Abstract

Small-scale fishing vessels (those under ten metres) make up 80% of the UK's fishing fleet [1] yet receive only 4% of the total national fishing quota [2,3].

By failing to prioritise this industry, it is widely established that the UK has left the families that depend upon it vulnerable. Hidden within this vulnerability are thousands of women vital to the survival of small-scale fishing businesses.

To explore and raise their profile, this project will examine women's roles, identities and wellbeing in fishing families.

This research is particularly timely as, by exiting the EU, the UK government will be reviewing its support to the fishing industry, making decisions about what type of fishery - and whom within it - should be supported and how.

The research focuses on the roles women play in responding to recent economic downturns in the fishing sector. There are two main ways in which this is done: i) fisheries diversification, and ii) non-fishing employment.

i) Recent research has shown that diversifying fishing businesses - by operating in several different areas to spread the risk of low catches - can help small-scale fishers to create stable incomes [4-6]. Examples of diversification strategies are processing of fish and opening a restaurant where the caught fish can be sold at a higher price. Whilst the contributions of women within fisheries diversification have been noted as important [4], no research to date has explored this in-depth.

ii) The project will also consider how the fishing family can adapt to economic downturns by seeking non-fishing employment.

Alongside this, previous research has noted that women support the wellbeing and health of their male fishing partners [7,8] but this research has not explored the wellbeing of women themselves.

By responding to these gaps in knowledge, this research will study women's changing roles in fishing families and how this is associated with women's changing identities and their wellbeing.

To meet the research aims, the research will take place in two phases using a qualitative approach - a method of study which involves interviewing people and listening to their experiences. Phase I will involve a period of in-depth interviews with families in the UK. Information will also be collected in Canada to explore similarities and differences between two countries with different fishing policies.

In exploring these aspects of the fishing family, this research will provide new and vital insights into how fishing families can develop resilience to changes in their industry, and how governments can support this. It will also show how changes in fishing families can affect the wellbeing of women and if more could be done to support them.

In addition to meeting the research aims, the Principal Investigator (PI) will seek to achieve societal impact by convening and leading a series of stakeholder engagements. In particular, the project will establish the platform 'Women In Fishing Families Association' (WIFFA) in collaboration with the project's non-academic Steering Group. Within the WIFFA platform the PI will co-organise one trans-European exchange programme for women in fishing families aiming to develop capacity within the network as well as a Final Workshop were research findings and WIFFA progress will be disseminated and discussed.

Findings from this research and progress of the WIFFA will be communicated on the project website and in the project Final Booklet. The aim of these stakeholder engagement events is to raise the profile of women in small-scale fishing families in the UK by making their contributions visible and their voices heard.

Planned Impact

The impacts this study will generate are twofold: first, it will develop 'conceptual' impact (e.g. reframing debates in public and societal groups) and, second, it will generate 'instrumental impact' (such as influencing the development of policy) [9]. To achieve this, the research engages four target end-groups beyond academia:

1. Women in fishing families: By nuancing the representation of women in fisheries and making visible the 'invisible' contributions of women to the survival of small-scale fishing families, this research will empower this target group to become recognised within the family, community, industry and fishing policies [see 10]. Furthermore, it has been observed that taking part in this kind of narrative research (Phase I) can promote the wellbeing of participants themselves by supporting them in making sense of and articulating their experiences in their own words [11].

2. Local, national and international 'Women in fisheries' groups: The research will support the advocacy work already being done to help women in fisheries by providing much needed evidence on the economic and social position as well as wellbeing of women in fisheries in the UK. Secondly, by engaging these groups throughout the research (e.g. AKTEA and LIFE see 'Letters of Support') the researcher will directly contribute to their existing work. Collaborating like this will create opportunities for mutual learning between different perspectives and cultures, which will feed back into the framing of the research project. Thirdly, the PI will facilitate the development of a UK-based network of women in fishing families (see 'Pathways to Impact').

3. Fishing industry organisations: The research will also be of value to those promoting the small-scale fishing industry at local and national levels. These stakeholders are local fisheries (or 'fishermen's') associations who organise individual small-scale fishers locally and are present all over the UK and beyond. At the national level there are fisheries organisations representing those local associations (e.g. 'The Welsh Fisherman's Association', 'The Scottish Fishermen's Association' and the 'New Under Ten Fishermen's Association' (NUTFA)). Whilst it is identified that this project has relevance to these groups, the PI will engage with these male dominated groups sensitively as the findings of this project may not always represent their primary interests. At the same time, some of these groups have expressed interest and support of this project through participating in the project Steering Group (e.g. NUTFA). Therefore, to achieve impact within this group, the researcher will engage key individuals sympathetic to supporting women in UK fisheries and support them in broadening awareness within their, perhaps less sympathetic, fishing circles.

4. National policy representatives and organisations (e.g. Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Marine Scotland, Natural Resources Wales, Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Northern Ireland), and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra, England); Seafish): The research will re-frame debates around what support is needed for achieving a more socio-economically sustainable small-scale fishing industry by contributing much needed 'holistic' evidence on how fishing families are responding to change. By addressing this gap in knowledge, key sources of resilience will be identified which is much needed and helpful knowledge for those seeking to manage fisheries for a better future. In addition, the research will engage with the perspective of these organisations (Phase II) to be able to suggest specific measures that these organisations could take to improve the position of women in a post-Brexit fishing industry.

The specific activities that will be organised to maximise the impacts of the research will be outlined in 'Pathways to Impact'.
 
Description On the 17th of October, 2019, the Women in Fisheries project organised the first UK women in fisheries meeting in Exeter. Women in the meeting shared their experiences - the good and the bad - and we established the UK women in fisheries network. This is particularly organised as a facebook group online with nearly 100 members. The discussions in the meeting were summarised in a policy briefing - launched on international women's day on the 8th of March 2020. Additional impact activities will be ongoing during 2020.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Fishy Feminisms 
Organisation Memorial University of Newfoundland
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution A workshop submitted to the Centre for Maritime Research (MARE) People and the Sea V conference in June 2019 titled: "Fishy Feminists: Drawing on the Past to Imagine Feminist Futures of Seas and Coasts" . Co-organised with Dr Christine Knotty, Memorial University. We have 9 presentations in this session which includes early career and established international scholars using feminist theory in the context of fisheries. Post-conference we submitted a request for organising a thematic section in the academic journal Gender, Place and Culture och "Fishy Feminisms"
Collaborator Contribution Christine Knott has led this initiative whilst I have been the main collaborator.
Impact We have put together a conference workshop session for the social science marine conference organised in Amsterdam June 2019.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Ocean Frontier Institute - Phase 2 funding awarded- collaborator 
Organisation Memorial University of Newfoundland
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Women in Fisheries project is a collaborator of the 4 million CAD OFI Phase 2 consortia led by scholars at Memorial Univeristy, St John's, Newfoundland, Canada. I contributed to the writing and idea making of the work package focused on 'Social Justice and Equity for Fish and Fish Communities' which was awarded 293,000 CAD
Collaborator Contribution Nicole Power and Christine Knott at Memorial University led the development of the funding bid for WP 9.
Impact Still active
Start Year 2019
 
Description Ocean Frontier Institute - Phase 2 funding awarded- collaborator 
Organisation Ocean Frontier Institute
Country Canada 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The Women in Fisheries project is a collaborator of the 4 million CAD OFI Phase 2 consortia led by scholars at Memorial Univeristy, St John's, Newfoundland, Canada. I contributed to the writing and idea making of the work package focused on 'Social Justice and Equity for Fish and Fish Communities' which was awarded 293,000 CAD
Collaborator Contribution Nicole Power and Christine Knott at Memorial University led the development of the funding bid for WP 9.
Impact Still active
Start Year 2019
 
Description Researching People and the Sea: methodologies and traditions 
Organisation Aalborg University
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Women and Fisheries project has sought to be part of methodological discussions on how to research gender/women in the context of fishing families which is embedded in a wider discussion of methodologies in the context of people and the sea. First I, in collaboration with collaborators, developed a series of three session on "Researching People and the Sea: methodologies and traditions" for the Centre for Maritime Research (MARE) Academic Conference: People and the Sea X. Many of the presenters at MARE were postgraduates or early career researchers who had an interest in reflecting on research methodologies in the context of research on people and the sea - a discussion which is often contained within the pages of PhD theses and not made known more widely. In 2019 we secured a book contract with Palgrave MacMillan, in which I have a chapter on how to do interviews with fishers and fishing families. As editors we have read the work of authors, given feedback and reviewed their work. We also co-author the Introduction and Conclusion chapter.
Collaborator Contribution The editorial team is: Gustavsson, M, White, Carole (UEA), Phillipson, J (Newcastle) and Ounanian K (Aalborg). We have divided up the work load between us and have read, reviewed and organised jointly.
Impact Secured book contract with Palgrave MacMillan
Start Year 2018
 
Description Researching People and the Sea: methodologies and traditions 
Organisation Newcastle University
Department Centre for Rural Economy (CRE)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Women and Fisheries project has sought to be part of methodological discussions on how to research gender/women in the context of fishing families which is embedded in a wider discussion of methodologies in the context of people and the sea. First I, in collaboration with collaborators, developed a series of three session on "Researching People and the Sea: methodologies and traditions" for the Centre for Maritime Research (MARE) Academic Conference: People and the Sea X. Many of the presenters at MARE were postgraduates or early career researchers who had an interest in reflecting on research methodologies in the context of research on people and the sea - a discussion which is often contained within the pages of PhD theses and not made known more widely. In 2019 we secured a book contract with Palgrave MacMillan, in which I have a chapter on how to do interviews with fishers and fishing families. As editors we have read the work of authors, given feedback and reviewed their work. We also co-author the Introduction and Conclusion chapter.
Collaborator Contribution The editorial team is: Gustavsson, M, White, Carole (UEA), Phillipson, J (Newcastle) and Ounanian K (Aalborg). We have divided up the work load between us and have read, reviewed and organised jointly.
Impact Secured book contract with Palgrave MacMillan
Start Year 2018
 
Description Researching People and the Sea: methodologies and traditions 
Organisation University of East Anglia
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Women and Fisheries project has sought to be part of methodological discussions on how to research gender/women in the context of fishing families which is embedded in a wider discussion of methodologies in the context of people and the sea. First I, in collaboration with collaborators, developed a series of three session on "Researching People and the Sea: methodologies and traditions" for the Centre for Maritime Research (MARE) Academic Conference: People and the Sea X. Many of the presenters at MARE were postgraduates or early career researchers who had an interest in reflecting on research methodologies in the context of research on people and the sea - a discussion which is often contained within the pages of PhD theses and not made known more widely. In 2019 we secured a book contract with Palgrave MacMillan, in which I have a chapter on how to do interviews with fishers and fishing families. As editors we have read the work of authors, given feedback and reviewed their work. We also co-author the Introduction and Conclusion chapter.
Collaborator Contribution The editorial team is: Gustavsson, M, White, Carole (UEA), Phillipson, J (Newcastle) and Ounanian K (Aalborg). We have divided up the work load between us and have read, reviewed and organised jointly.
Impact Secured book contract with Palgrave MacMillan
Start Year 2018
 
Description Steering Group established 
Organisation European network of fisherwomen’s organisations in Europe
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Steering Group for the project has been established. The first meeting was held online in July 2018. The second meeting was held in July 2019 in Amsterdam, coinciding with the MARE conference.
Collaborator Contribution LIFE and AKTEA has provided feedback and comment on the design of the logo and website and has facilitated with communication about the websites on their respective websites.
Impact Co-production of website and branding of project.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Steering Group established 
Organisation Low Impact Fishers of Europe
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The Steering Group for the project has been established. The first meeting was held online in July 2018. The second meeting was held in July 2019 in Amsterdam, coinciding with the MARE conference.
Collaborator Contribution LIFE and AKTEA has provided feedback and comment on the design of the logo and website and has facilitated with communication about the websites on their respective websites.
Impact Co-production of website and branding of project.
Start Year 2018
 
Description UK Gender theme expert 'Illuminating Hidden Harvests' 
Organisation Duke University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am, as part of the Women in Fisheries project, the UK Gender theme expert on a larger research project led by FAO and Duke University on Illuminating Hidden Harvests. This meant I have been consulting the UK based research team on fisheries gender data in the UK contexts.
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact not yet
Start Year 2019
 
Description UK Gender theme expert 'Illuminating Hidden Harvests' 
Organisation Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)
Country Italy 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I am, as part of the Women in Fisheries project, the UK Gender theme expert on a larger research project led by FAO and Duke University on Illuminating Hidden Harvests. This meant I have been consulting the UK based research team on fisheries gender data in the UK contexts.
Collaborator Contribution n/a
Impact not yet
Start Year 2019
 
Description A Department of Sociology Speaker Series Event In Partnership with the Ocean Frontier Institute, Memorial University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Delivered a research presentation at Memorial University as part of the academic placement. The presentation was titled: "Understanding economic and symbolic capital in smaller-scale fisheries. And what about women? Reflecting on past, present and future research". The seminar series was organised by the Sociology department in partnership with the Ocean Frontier Institute. This raised awareness of the work I have been doing and will do in the Women in Fisheries project, developing networks that later led to being included as a collaborator in the OFI Phase 2 application which was successful.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description AKTEA - Relaunch of the Women in Fisheries and Aquaculture Europe Network 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The women in fisheries project participated in the relaunch event of the AKTEA women in fisheries and aquaculture network in Brussels. Over 40 women in fisheries participated to discuss their situations and how to move forward
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://women-fisheries.com/news/aktea
 
Description Centre for Maritime Research (MARE) Academic Conference: People and the Sea X 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact At the Centre for Maritime Research (MARE) Academic Conference: People and the Sea X I presented on the narrative review manuscript I have put together for the Women in Fisheries project. The presentation was titled: "Women's economic contribution to fishing families through a feminisation lens". This paper presentation was part of a couple of sessions on "Fishy Feminists" organised by Christine Knott (Memorial University) and I. It prompted discussion in the session.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Centre for Maritime Research (MARE) Academic Conference: People and the Sea X. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Academic presentation discussing methods with focus on how to access the stories of women in fishing families. Titled: "Attending to the rhythms of the sea, place and (gendered) fishing cultures in interviewing fishers and fishing families". This was part of a series of sessions which I organised in collaboration with Carole White (UEA), Jeremy Phillipson (Newcastle), Kristen Ounanian (Aalborg University). The research presented in the sessions will form part of a future edited book edited by the above mentioned academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Economic Geography Colloquium Discussion forum. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Delivered a presentation for the Women in Fisheries project at the Economic Geography Research Colloquium at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. A feminisation perspective on women's changing productive roles and identities in fishing families and beyond: a review. Feedback developed into a revised version of a review paper which I have submitted at the end of 2019.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description International Collective in Support of Fishworker (ICSF) Yemaya "What's News, Webby?" mentioning of Website: "A new women in fisheries project" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The International Collective in Support of Fishworkers promoted the project website in their Yemaya newsletter.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.icsf.net/images/yemaya/pdf/english/issue_58/350_YEMAYA_58_Dec_2018_ICSF.pdf
 
Description Interview with The Telegram newspaper Newfoundland, Canada 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I spoke to the regional newspaper The Telegram which resulted in them publishing a piece on the Women in Fisheries project and how to get involved. This resulted in key contacts contacting me which enabled data collection
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/womens-contributions-to-nl-and-uk-fishing-industries-focus-of...
 
Description Launch of the Women in Fisheries project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The Women in Fisheries website was launched on the 8th of August 2018. The launch was particularly successful on twitter with 107 retweets and 180 likes. The launch resulted in approx 300 unique visitors. The website has since been visited by 1574 unique visitors and over 5000 page views. The website has so far worked as a platform for media to get in touch; for potential participants in both the UK and Canada to get in touch; and for academics and practitioners to follow the project. The website has a news function where I continuously (approx once a month) add updates on what I am doing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.women-fisheries.com
 
Description Organised Women in Fisheries meeting 17 Oct 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact 5 women from the UK fishing industry were gathered to exchange experiences and discuss challenges they face woman in the UK fishing industry. I led, organised and facilitated the full-day meeting. The meeting led to a formalisation of a network of women in the industry and a policy brief circulated to key stakeholders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://women-fisheries.com/news/2019/9/5/uk-women-in-fisheries-meeting
 
Description Press release for data collection - working with the press office at Memorial Univerisity 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Issued a press release through the Memorial University press office which resulted in several contacts with local and regional media (such as the Broadcast interview; as well as interviews with the Telegram).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Radio interview in Newfoundland, Canada 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participated in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) daily radio programme 'The Broadcast' on the 21st of August 2018 talking about the women in fisheries project. This radio programme is the oldest fisheries radio programme in Canada.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/the-broadcast/episode/15585045
 
Description Seafish UKFEN September Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I presented my work on the women in fisheries project at a Seafish led conference on Socioeconomic perspectives on the UK small scale fleet. The presentation was entitled: Fishing livelihoods, gender issues and ocean space.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description The Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI Seminar) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Delivered a presentation about the Women in fisheries project entitled: Capitals, gender and social contexts in small-scale fishing communities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description World Ocean Day 2019 - gender and the ocean University of Exeter blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Was part of a blog which was circulated and tweeted on the World Ocean Day 2019 with the theme gender and the ocean. This was done to increase the awareness of research being done on the topic within the University of Exeter.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/exetermarine/2019/06/07/worldoceansday-gender-and-the-oceans/