Women's success in fishing

Fisherwomen, concessionaires, and businesswomen interviewed by EL UNIVERSAL agree that permits and financial aid are obstructed by gender

Women's success in fishing
Fisherwomen are discriminated against - Photo: Christian Ayala/EL UNIVERSAL
English 17/10/2018 15:53 Ensenada, BC Enrique Alvarado, Alejandro Melgoza, & Andrés M. Estrada Actualizada 14:22
Guardando favorito...

Leer en español

When the fisherwoman Minerva Pérez Castro became successful thanks to the production of geoduck, a mollusk from the Mexican Pacific coast, the envious comments emerged among workers from Ensenada, Baja California, who used to disregard this species years ago, which is now one of the most consumed in the Asian market.

Minerva was the pioneer in that niche, with her company, Atenea en el Mar. But before she achieved stability, she started from the bottom. Before the U.S. tuna embargo, established in 1989, she used to carry, fish, and prepare boats for lobster, fish, tuna fishing.

Yanett Castro Median also went through that same story, she learned the trade at eight-years-old, from her father, in the Altata Bay and Ensenada del Pabellón, Sinaloa. She worked with shrimp, oyster, fish, and clams.

Now, she is the administrative president of the Santa Cruz's Fishing and Clam Production Cooperative Society, the only one of its kind in Sinaloa where women fish and dive: “The majority helps in different activities in the cooperative; nevertheless, they don't see us as fisherwomen,” she explains.

Fisherwomen, concessionaires, and businesswomen interviewed by EL UNIVERSAL agree that permits and financial aid are obstructed by gender, in a context where 70% of the 14,311 registered workers don't have a steady income, according to an analysis carried out by DataMares and Community and Biodiversity (Cobi), based on data from the Geography and Statistic National Institute (Inegi).

“There's a lot of discrimination, in every direction. It's very common that when you request a permit they tell you: 'what do you want it for or who for whom do you want it?', they don't think a woman wants to make a living off that. Frequently, women are judged based on their appearance, and there are public servants who question my performance in this activity because they think I don't look like a fisher or question the way in which I entered the sector,” says Minerva Pérez, in the second part of this story.

Besides those obstacles, which violate the Equality between Women and Men General Law, an addition was made a few months ago, an initiative from the former PRI Senator, Diva Gastélum; even then, the subsidies' operation rules don't consider gender perspective.

The addition to the law proposed by Gastélum; approved in December 2017, anticipates that the “programs and projects promote and drive the development of women's fishing activities.”

Operation Rules

Nevertheless, in the Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa) Programs' Operation Rules for 2018, in its 16 considerations published on the Official Gazette, gender equality is not included. The considerations correspond to the drive of the capitalization, the component of aquaculture development, fishing and aquaculture regulation and surveillance, consumption promotion and productive packages.

According to an analysis of the DataMares initiative, they exceeded MXN $13,000 million during the 2005-2017. The initiative requested information to the Conapesco 47 times, about the subsidies and the permits, separated by gender, the way in which it's registered in its application form, without delivering the information into those categories. One of the reasons of the lack of female visibility is due to the bias in data registration, such as “not disaggregate them by gender and not consider fishing to survive, carried out mostly by women,” which includes previous and later tasks, after the extraction.

The women interviewed in Sonora, Baja California, Sinaloa, and Baja California Sur say that the incentives are mostly received by men, while Conapesca indicated that it spent MXN $880 million. Pérez explains that “when there are closed seasons, for example, financial aid is granted to fishers, but women are excluded.”

One of the subsidies granted during environmental contingencies, such as hurricanes, says the businesswoman, doesn't include women who are part of the production chain, but the person directly linked to the fishing permit. This is a policy that has to change to include all women, who usually are the head of the family, and depend on the post-production activity of that same permit, she says.

17 years, Minerva started her own business with geoduck, she requested a study and two years later, she obtained the commercial fishing permit and a boat. With time, she got six boats, and the fishermen noticed her financial success. To develop, even more, she studied a Master in Administration and started trying to add value to the product.

“The way in which I differentiated myself and added more value to my products was through sanitary evaluations. I already had the capacity to reach the international market, but there weren't any certified plants for bivalve mollusks, that's why I decided to invest everything I had earned. In fact, it's the only certified plant that can export to the U.S., China, Europe, and Canada with damp storage,” she explains. When fishermen and authorities noticed this, they said: ”Minerva, you don't look like a fisherwoman, I don't think you are. Who is using the permit?.”

Negative factors

Lorena Ortiz, the counselor of the Mexican Confederation of Fishing and Aquaculture Cooperatives (Conmecoop), explains that there have been advances in terms of equality, there are two negative factors: the first, that women themselves don't value their work and secondly, that authorities don't recognize them as fisherwomen because they lack official registration. “We don't value our work and men don't like it when we stand out,” says Ortiz, a former official at the Aquaculture and Fishing National Commission (Conapesca).

Pérez emphasizes that there are many women who develop themselves in fishing through innovative ideas, that generates an income for their families and economy. “Fishing needs more women in decision-making positions, as we know how to work in teams; manage resources, and we think about the new generations' future.”

Laura Rodríguez, director of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in Mexico, considers that “evaluating the public policies from a holistic point of view is needed, to see the barriers in fishing, but also other created by the education and social security systems for those, mostly women, who are the ones who care for their families and educate their children.”

Castro Medina is one of the most famous fisherwomen from Sinaloa because her cooperative is formed mostly by women. She remembers that when she was a child, she met young women who are still in the same poverty conditions, that's why “it's time to fight. They have nothing and they still live in the same conditions. The majority didn't study, they have provided for their families, they don't feel appreciated, and that's not OK because they should be proud, they don't feel that way because they have never earned enough.”

“We want to change the story of fisherwomen so that they don't feel diminished; by training, looking for alternatives, earning a fair salary, obtaining credits to give added value to our products. We can change our story,” says Yanett.


Guardando favorito...

Noticias según tus intereses