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WMU: Contributing to Recognizing Women in Fisheries

The significant contribution women make in the fishing supply chain is often overlooked. During a side event on Women in Fisheries at the Torremolinos Ministerial Conference on safety of fishing vessels in Torremolinos, Spain (21-23 October), speakers highlighted examples of work being done to support women in fisheries

Women play key roles in fisheries around the world. To ignore those roles is to see only half the picture,” said Mr. Juvenal Shiundu, Director of IMO’s Technical Cooperation Division. “Available data does not capture the multidimensional nature of the work undertaken by women in fisheries and few policies are developed with women in mind,” Mr. Shiundu said. To address the lack of visibility of women in fisheries, IMO has undertaken an online raising-awareness initiative under the hashtag #WomenInFisheries including an online photowall. ​


The importance of, and the need for, data was echoed by several speakers, including Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of the World Maritime University (WMU). President Doumbia-Henry also emphasized the importance of education and decent working conditions.

“In the context of fisheries, education on fishing and coastal management needs to be completed by recognizing the right to decent working conditions for fishers, including promoting their safety. It is also necessary to engage communities because women and families are key support for the implementation of safety and environmental standards as well as social conditions,” she said.

Women in the Fisheries Sector

In her remarks, the Hon Emma Metieh Glassco, Director General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority of Liberia, and a 2017 WMU alumna, highlighted practical steps to increase the visibility of women in fisheries, including organizing fishmongers’ associations and practical training on salting of fish and using improved smoking ovens (a project supported by Iceland).

Also speaking at the event were: Jane Njeri Grytten, General Manager, Pweza Fishing Operations Management Ltd, Kenya; Maria del Mar Saez Torres of the Spanish Network of Women in the Fisheries Sector (REMSP); Alicia Mosteiro Cabanelas, Fisheries Officer, FAO (Moderator); Christine Bader, ILO; and Helen Buni, IMO (Facilitator). 


Current estimates suggest that about 40 million people are engaged in fishing, with only 15% being women. However, this number may be underestimated since women play a more prominent role in small-scale fisheries in developing economies and supporting sectors for which data and reporting is less readily available. In the onshore fish processing industry, including the aquaculture and fishing gear maintenance and repair, the majority of the workforce are women. 

Organization of women in fisheries

Speakers also emphasized the need to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing which would include involving women at the shore side part of the fisheries supply chain. Further work is needed, to build partnerships, to achieve greater inter-agency collaboration between IMO-FAO-ILO to improve visibility and recognition of women in the fisheries sector and to support the organization of women in fisheries into networks.

The side event took place at the Torremolinos Ministerial Conference on Fishing Vessel Safety and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing (21-23 October). The historic, IMO-led conference brought together some 120 States, 70 ministerial-level representatives, 30 international organizations and 500 delegates for what was one of the largest fishing vessel conferences held in the history of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Safety of Fishing Vessels

The purpose of the Ministerial Conference was to promote the ratification of the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 on the Implementation of the Provisions of the Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 relating to the Torremolinos International Convention for the Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977 and to discuss strategies to deter the proliferation of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Two countries, The Cook Islands and Sao Tome and Principe, are the latest States to become Parties to the Cape Town Agreement, while 40 other countries signed the Torremolinos Declaration, a non-legally binding political instrument.

The conference was organized by IMO and the Government of Spain with the  support of the FAO and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

press release

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