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UPEI Researchers Address Gender Issues at International Fisheries Conference

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Researchers from the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), together with colleagues and students from the University of the South Pacific (USP), were prominent participants in The Global Symposium on Gender and Fisheries which took place in Penang, Malaysia, recently. UPEI and USP have been working together to train South Pacific fisheries researchers and support their research on gender issues in small-scale fisheries.

"Women are actively engaged in harvesting, processing and selling fish, both for family food and domestic markets, plus they are integral supports for men's commercial and export oriented fisheries," notes Dr. Irene Novaczek, Director of the Institute of Island Studies at UPEI, "yet women's work, although critical to food security and community well-being, is rarely acknowledged or documented."

Under the direction of Dr. Jean Mitchell and Dr. Novaczek of UPEI, and Dr Joeli Veitayaki of USP, Pacific researchers from Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu documented the critical roles women have in modern fisheries, and how gender roles have changed over time. Several of these studies were showcased in the Global Gender and Fisheries Symposium. Novaczek presented three papers. One told the story of Lelepa Island in Vanuatu. On this island, fisheries are severely depleted. Efforts to manage and conserve marine resources have met with limited success, in part because women and youth, who are active fishers, have no role in public decision-making. A second paper, co-authored by Novaczek and Mitchell, discussed how important it is to reject stereotypes and analytical processes that reinforce discrimination against women and perpetuate the view that women's work is unimportant. In a third paper, Novaczek looked at edible and medicinal marine plants as resources for rural women's small business development in the Pacific.

Novaczek reports that academics from all over Asia and the Pacific have shown interest in UPEI's unique Master of Arts in Island Studies Program."I hope that international exposure such as this will lead to exciting new collaborations with island researchers in Asia and the South Pacific," she notes. "In the recent tsunami, at least one university marine station in that region was heavily damaged. Tragically, a bright young marine researcher from the Andaman Islands is among the dead. The Institute of Island Studies will be looking for opportunities to develop projects that help to rebuild capacity in that region."

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Anne McCallum
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