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SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY (SPC) Noumea, New Caledonia Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS RELEASE March 7, 2000


Fishing and the marine environment have always played an important role in the lifestyle and culture of people in Pacific Island countries. Traditionally men have fished with boats offshore while women have concentrated their activities on the inshore environment, collecting numerous species from the reef and mangrove areas. Despite the importance of "women's fishing" to the family diet and income, plus more recent concerns over the decline in catches of inshore species, women have largely been overlooked in fisheries development and management initiatives. Most people still think of men in boats when they think of fisheries activities and this affects the way in which these activities are supported. Fisheries activities include not just going out in boats and catching fish, but also collecting shellfish and other marine life from the reef and mangroves; cleaning, cutting, cooking and preserving seafood; sitting in the market and selling seafood; and a whole host of other activities to do with marine resources that may involve men, women and children.

The Community Fisheries Section of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), originally the Women's Fisheries Development Section, was created to ensure that women were no longer overlooked in regional and national fisheries development and management activities. The work of the Section originally targeted women exclusively, but more recently its work has broadened to include all those in coastal fishing communities. This is in recognition of the fact that to achieve the sustainable and equitable use of inshore resources, the activities of all who use them should be considered. Much of the work of the Section is still very much oriented to women, not surprising considering they are often the main users of the inshore areas.

The Section aims to increase knowledge and awareness of women's fisheries activities through undertaking fieldwork and publishing national assessments for requesting member countries and territories. The assessments document small-scale fisheries activities, provide details of services available to those involved, identify areas of need and provide guidelines to assist in finding solutions to these problems. Based on the findings of the survey the Section then works with the national fisheries agency and women's groups in providing in-country training. This may involve a range of topics including seafood quality and handling; processing and preservation; small business skills; and fisheries conservation and management. Depending on the situation, the workshops may be targeted at just women, or both men and women.

Other work of the Section includes the production of resource material such as training videos and manuals; the Women in Fisheries Bulletin; and the provision of technical assistance, regional courses and workshops.

For additional information, contact: Lyn Lambeth, Community Fisheries Development Officer LynL@spc.int 

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