Mending fishing nets is no easy task when the net is from a purse-seiner and may be up to 3,000 metres long and 300–400 metres deep, and weigh 6 tonnes, as in the case of super-seiners.
The design and construction of these nets are complex, as they have to function well in a variety of situations, weather and sea conditions that are pretty challenging. Not only do they have to withstand the complicated mix of forces and tensions during setting and hauling, they also have to cope with the extra stress put on them by being used under potentially different currents from the water surface to the bottom of the net.
Running repairs are done constantly. Many are done on board, but major repairs require a large, flat surface such as a wharf or net yard, and the use of forklifts and other equipment to move the net panels around. Francisco Blaha gives us a better appreciation of the difficulty crews face when repairing nets, at sea and in port.
SPC has published short reports into ways that women can have a greater say in fisheries management in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
The reports are a snapshot of information on and analysis of the how women participate in fishing in the four countries.
Each report summarises the steps the country has taken so far to improve women’s involvement. These are mostly in policies. It also highlights strengths and weaknesses in current arrangements, and discusses political factors and social norms that prevent or deter women from becoming more actively involved.
These points are used to list ways in which women could become more equal participants in both decision-making about and control of fisheries resources. They include learning from women themselves what they need and want, targeting women when delivering extension services, and implementing gender-equity policies that already exist.
SPC says the reports are intended to stimulate discussion about how to make improvements in the organisation’s Social Development Programme and Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems (FAME) Division.
It says the recommendations are also relevant to the national government of the country, and the country’s external partners in development.
Women often don’t see themselves as fishers
In all four countries, many women do not see themselves as fishers, even though they provide seafood for the family. They and the men in their families see only the men as the fishers.
The reports note that women also have less time to be involved in paid work, community decision-making and development activities, as they do most of the reproductive work and caregiving in the family and the community, and don’t have time for other things.
SPC writes that “care must be taken to consult with women and ensure they have time to benefit from development at a pace they can manage”.
Social norms needed to be discussed if people’s thinking was to change. This was difficult work that would take time, especially as there was a lack of expertise in gender analysis in all four countries.
Opportunities in each country highlighted
Women are involved in community decision-making in places in all the countries, and this could be built on to increase their involvement.
In Tonga, women make up 40% of the community councils that manage the special management areas that the government has set up to restore coastal fishing areas that have collapsed. However, SPC notes, the women on the councils may not have the same power as men when making decisions.
In Fiji, women are involved in subsistence fishing and also work in the cannery, hold positions of power, and have extensive knowledge and skills that are different to those of Fijian men in the industry. However, SPC notes, they remain marginalised in decision-making and consultation, and receive fewer benefits.
In Samoa, women make up about 18% of fishers in villages, and are responsible for about 10% of a community’s fishing effort. They also do most of the processing after harvest. SPC notes that although the Samoan Government is hampered by the limited sharing of skills and knowledge between departments, it is working with development partners to improve women’s involvement in coastal and marine fisheries.
The reports cover all fisheries. However, as women are much more involved in coastal fisheries and aquaculture (and men in deep-sea fisheries), the discussion is more focused on these. SPC has a handbook on gender equity and social inclusion in coastal fisheries last year.
Environmentalists want to stop Japan’s plans to discharge what they say is more than a million tonnes of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.
A Greenpeace nuclear specialist, Shaun Burnie, said a nuclear water crisis at the Fukushima Plant had been worsened by technical failures.
He said flawed decision-making behind the plans was driven by cost-cutting from the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company.
Mr Burnie called on Pacific countries to stop Japan’s plans, given the need to protect the environment, regional communities and the fishing industry.
“Any nation that requires or is active in the Pacific on environmental issues, whether it’s economic, whether it’s fisheries.
“We’ve done so much damage to our oceans – from climate change, from nuclear weapons testing by France and the United States.
“The Japanese Government can make a decision in managing this waste without threatening the environment.
“And if they hear voices from around the Pacific saying that it’s not acceptable, that certainly can have an effect.”
Dr Tanaka Noriko from the Japanese Embassy in Wellington denied the Greenpeace report.
He said tests carried out on the nuclear water last year had shown a value below the detection rate.
But Greenpeace maintains the government and TEPCO must reassess their options for the long-term management of the highly contaminated water at Fukushima.
Mr Burnie said “the only viable option is the long-term storage of this water in robust steel tanks over at least the next century, and the parallel development of water processing technology”.
He said the government and TEPCO had set an objective of “solving” the radioactive water crisis by 2020, which was never credible.
“TEPCO has finally admitted that its technology has failed to reduce levels of strontium, and other hazardous radioactivity, to below regulatory limits.
“Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out.
“We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organization and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds,” said Mr Burnie.
To attract attention to tuna stories, I’m excited to be part of the new TUNApacific website aimed at bringing issues around tuna closer to our Pacific people; and sharing our tuna stories in one online news hub. From my experience as a longtime journalist in Palau, the issue of tuna and its economic benefits gets little news coverage.
Palau’s way of life is fishing but is concentrated on inshore fishing or one-man, one-boat kind of fishing. With tuna a multi-billion industry globally, Palau needs to realize the benefits of being involved.
I am excited to share to Palau my knowledge about tuna fisheries.
Maybe we are not asking the right questions or not getting the right answers, but I see the enormous potential in creating a domestic fishing industry in Palau and am hopeful that it will gain the same prominence in the media or in the campaign being conducted by Palau.
Watch this space for more reports, opinions or just plain rants about tuna… (Bernadette Carreon)