Women’s Role Changing in Oregon Fishing Community

commercial-fishing-boatWomen are adapting to new and ever more important roles in Oregon’s commercial fishing industry, according to a new study published in the journal Marine Policy. Interviews with women and men from the Oregon coastal towns of Astoria, Garibaldi, Newport, Port Orford, Warrenton, as well as in Morrow Bay, CA were conducted by former OSU master’s student Sarah Calhoun. The research was funded by the Oregon Sea Grant.

Study co-author Flaxen Conway, OSU College of Liberal Arts professor and Oregon Sea Grant community outreach specialist, said in a recent press release, “I’ve always been really impressed with the resilience of the fishing community, and this work has showed us that adaptation has actually resulted in a major change in the roles women play in the family business.”

Community groups such as Newport Fishermen’s Wives have played essential parts in helping people adapt and learn new skills in the face of changing complicated regulations and fishing quota systems. The increasing involvement of women in management, research, or as part of commissions and task forces was a theme certainly deemed noteworthy by some of those interviewed.

One woman, the wife of a fisherman, noted, “More women and fishermen’s wives are much more aware of the regulatory issues than they were 20 years ago, and are much more active… self-educating or attending the meetings, or pushing their husbands out the door [to a meeting] and telling them, ‘You need to go to this.’”

Another woman added, “It was really obvious that our boat and our community was going to be entirely left off it [if] we weren’t at the table to participate in the really finer details of the design of the [catch shares] program, and so that’s when I got involved.”

Research like this helps fishing-oriented communities inform policy makers so that they better understand how management policies affect the social as well as economic well-being of the coastal communities they represent.

By Matthew Hunt