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The invisible women of Europe’s fishing Sector

Last updated on November 12, 2019

In Europe, women play an integral part in fishing and aquaculture, but also often their job remains unrecognized and underpaid. Limited career options and unfair cover gaps imply many girls have difficulty making their way into this male-dominated industry.

The mariscadoras select clams and cockles from the sandbanks of Galicia, in north-western Spain and make around 1000 euros per month. In earlier times this was not considered a project and there wasn’t any fiscal stability or job rights.

The situation began to change from the 1990s when mariscadoras’ organizations united fishermen’s guilds. This recognition as employees of the fish industry came with legal defense, social security, and strict quotas to ensure shares aren’t overpriced. Now, shellfish pickers’ rights are safeguarded through a busy national institution, representing over 30,000 girls in Spain.

She says it is a continuous struggle to attain more faith.

“We must struggle for the identical retirement principles as employees on fishing ships,” she clarifies. “We must struggle for our occupational health issues to be recognized. We must struggle for representation at the applicable decision-making commissions and bodies.”

In Europe, many girls in the fisheries industry stay mathematically and lawfully invisible. Take the example of internet menders from the port of Vigo on Spain’s Atlantic shore. They play a part in the fishing industry but aren’t officially recognized which means they do appreciate the very same benefits of formal workers.

“I think that it’s illogical that office employees are retiring early, and we’re not. This isn’t fair,” states Manola Bamio, a web mender at Vigo. “They operate in relaxation, while we’re endangering our health, functioning in the cold and heat. Illnessback issues – we have these health issues, but they aren’t recognized.”

It is estimated over 100,000 women result in the EU fisheries industry. Accurate statistics aren’t available, but a few figures assert women represent approximately 13 percent of catch fishery workers, a quarter of their workforce in aquaculture and over half in fish processing.

Fishing boat crews are almost completely guys while wives, brothers, and sisters mend nets, clean ships or assist with administrative tasks, particularly in small companies.

The Galician Foundation for Fishing and Shellfishing (FUNDAMAR) runs many EU-supported jobs to face women’s invisibility and encourage gender equality in the industry. MarĂ­a Caldeira, General Director of FUNDAMAR states the work girls were considered of small value.

“While men went to sea, girls worked on property,” she clarifies. “Their job was just as essential as men’s, but it had been believed something free, and wasn’t recognized economically or socially.”

From the fish processing industry, girls frequently do menial tasks in factories owned and handled by men.

Her choice to produce the business was born from necessity: “I’m really an interior designer, but life in Galicia attracted me into this discipline, in addition to the overall employment situation following the catastrophe of 2008. This directed me to consider turning something we had been making ourselves in the home into a profession”

Success stories such as this are inspiring – but much more effort is still required to increase women’s visibility, decrease cover gaps and address additional sex inequalities from the blue market.

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