Women and the transformation of fisheries management and coastal economic development

By: Bachori Dhian Pratama dan Siti Zulaeha

In facing the challenges within the fisheries sector, women play an important role in supporting the management of sustainable tuna fisheries and the economic development of coastal communities. Equal participation of men and women in the fisheries sector could serve as a starting point to reduce marginalization and, moving forward, increase women’s participation in the fisheries sector.

Data-based fisheries management is an important aspect in ensuring data availability on a national scale. Since 2013 MDPI has been collecting data on tuna fisheries in several locations across eastern Indonesia, with recent data indicating that the size of tuna caught in the last few years has been in decline, with fishers needing to travel further out, resulting in longer fishing days and increased fuel costs. Data contributed by the handline sector in Indonesia is currently one of the most robust tuna data sets available nationally, an achievement made not without the active involvement of women.

Women, traditionally known as caregivers in the household, responsible for overseeing food and family nutrition as well as household finances, are now expanding their roles in the community. In recent years, fisher wives have been actively contributing to fisheries management efforts and economic development in various coastal areas of Indonesia, such as through recording fish catches and bookkeeping; activities that were initially done mainly by their husbands.

There has been an increased level of community awareness regarding the importance of data collection, such as in Jambula Village, Ternate, North Maluku. Having started with data collection for tuna, skipjack and mackerel fisheries in 2018, the community in Jambula Village has grown to understand the importance of data collection, especially the role of women in it. In fact, fisher wives have also become regular attendees of the Fair Trade fisher association monthly meetings. Through these meetings, women are provided with the platform to exchange ideas, be more involved in decision making, while also receiving equal opportunity to access information to help enhance their knowledge and awareness of the importance of providing data for national fisheries management plans.

Mrs. Endang, wife of one of Jambula’s Fair Trade fisher, has been logging catch data for about 4 years now. The consistency of data availability is maintained through a logbook system, which fisher wives would help fill out once their husbands return from sea, recording not only catch data but other information regarding the day’s trip as an effort to also fulfil the Fair Trade and Marine Stewardship Council certification standards. In addition, Mrs. Endang has become somewhat of an advocate for logbooks, encouraging other fisher wives to also record fishing trips as she believes that other than to help ease their husbands’ workload, they could help bring change in sustainable fisheries management.

Mrs. Endang together with MDPI encouraging fisher wives in Jambula to fill out the fisher logbook

Other than contributing to environmental sustainability through data collection, the role of women in fisheries also help improve household economy. Research by KIARA discovered that women contribute to 48 percent of fishing family’s income, through production (catching and collecting fish/seafood) and other post-fishing activities (preparing and selling fish products). In terms of buying and selling fish, fisher wives in Jambula are also part of the tuna fishery supply chain in Ternate for which they help transport fish from the landing site to the supplier’s mini-plant, and selling other types of fish at the local market as well as becoming treasurers of fisher cooperatives which are currently running its own small business unit.

In Seruni Mumbul Village, East Lombok, women also play an important role in increasing family income through selling their husband’s catches throug a fisher cooperative. In September 2021 MDPI successfully facilitated the establishment of a cooperative in the area, which currently also serves as a platform for the community to improve not only bookkeeping skills, but also household income. One of the fisher wives in the village, Mrs. Dina revealed that the establishment of the cooperative helped widen their horizons and fostered the desire to be more involved in the management of tuna fisheries in the province of West Nusa Tenggara (NTB). Moreover, Mrs. Dina also had the opportunity to attend the bi-annual Tuna Fisheries Co-Management Committee meetings. 2022 saw Mrs. Dina become actively involved in drafting a provincial action plan for fisheries management in NTB, acting as a representative of Segare Harapan Jaya Cooperative. Ibu Dina believes that women can continue to move forward and contribute to the region’s development, including through alternative livelihoods.

Mrs. Dina sells fishery products through the cooperative in Seruni Mumbul village

Another story of an iconic woman comes from one of MDPI’s project site, namely Toro Village in the Bone Regency of South Sulawesi. Mrs. Herna, who is also a wife of one of the many tuna fishers in the area, has been in the village’s spotlight due to her success in developing the Kembali Muda Mandiri Cooperative. Since November 2020, the cooperative that was formed alongside MDPI has become a platform for women in Toro Village to build their capacity in organization, bookkeeping, and business development. Entrusted with the responsibilities of a cooperative treasurer, Mrs. Herna is now able to manage the cooperative’s bookkeeping and has since found the opportunity to present her work at the Annual Members’ Meeting in February 2022.

Mrs. Herna leading with cooperative book-keeping – Bone, South Sulawesi

For more than 8 years MDPI has been working to support the advancement of coastal communities, including working to empower women within those communities, specifically through the implementation of Champion Program across project sites. In line with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, MDPI also believes that the participation of women leaders will bring change to sustainable fisheries and broader coastal economic development in the future.

Happy International Women’s Day. Women for positive change!