43 of 100: Ag and COVID: FAO Q&A: COVID-19 pandemic – impact on fisheries and aquaculture

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Q6: What are the implications in particular for women?

Self-isolation and restriction of mobility reduce demand for fish and fish products, which has negative economic impacts on women’s livelihoods and income immediately (harvesting, processing and trading), and in the future. In addition to a lack of economic opportunities, women fish vendors may be exposed to a greater risk of infection, since markets are a place of close contact and have limited sanitation and hygiene facilities. This is all the more fundamental in view of women’s decreased job security, especially those informally employed in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and migrant workers in seafood processing factories. They are thus unlikely to be eligible for, or have access to, social protection benefits offered by some governments to handle the COVID-19 outbreak.  

Moreover, lockdowns and mobility restrictions may modify the dynamics and power relationships between men and women within fisherfolk households and communities. It is therefore recommended that special attention and support be given to women and children who are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse in times of crises. As was also observed during the 2013–2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, a surge of domestic and family violence cases has already been observed in Australia, China, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America as a result of confinement measures.

Q7: Is there any consequence for management?

While closing fishing operations will offer respite to some overexploited fish populations, similar constraints will also apply to science and management support operations. For example, fish assessment surveys may be reduced or postponed, obligatory fisheries observer programmes may be temporarily suspended, and the postponement of science and management meetings will delay implementation of some necessary measures and the monitoring of management measures. Lockdowns could lead to reduced capacity in Fisheries Monitoring Centres (FMCs), as was the case in West Africa during the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak – not only were staff not available, but limited national resources were directed to fund emergency activities and this left the FMCs unable to function effectively. Fishers who are able to continue fishing at sea know this and they may adapt their operations to engage in illicit activities and benefit from the MCS shortcomings. A lack of monitoring and enforcement of shared stocks may encourage some states fishing on these stocks to revert to a less responsible level of management, monitoring and control of fishing operations. 

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