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“Women in fishing communities have to increase our knowledge for the future of our livelihoods.”
Ocean Witness María tells her story.
María Inés Ayala Loro lives with her family in San José, a small fishing community in Chiclayo in North Peru. In 2020, María participated in a project facilitated by WWF-Peru to integrate LED lights in fishing nets. This technology decreases the accidental catch of sea turtles and has been successful in different parts of the world. With the community of San José, WWF organized online workshops to capacitate the women of the community in the use of LED lights. In addition, a gender workshop promoting the role of women within fisheries — a very important economic activity in Peru — was organized with the community. For Maria, this was only the beginning.
What do you remember most from growing up in a coastal community?
Both my parents worked in the fishery: my dad was a fisherman and my mom sold fish. From an early age I helped them. I remember how surprised I was about the great variety of marine species, about the wealth of the ocean. The species that impressed me the most was the swordfish, it looked very peculiar to me.
The downside of that time was the pollution. People did not take care of the ocean and fishermen threw what was left of their fishing nets right on the beach. The ocean was always full of waste. Over time, the community became more aware, and fishermen started to clean after them. Now, we avoid polluting the beach and the ocean.
“We respect the ocean very much;
it is immense and a wealthy source of wealth that offers us a way of life.”
Photo credit: Yawar Films / WWF Peru
My husband Jose Mario Fiestas Flores is a fisherman, like many others in our community. We respect the ocean very much; it is immense and a wealthy source that offers us a way of life. If the ocean did not have such a large variety of fish, we would not benefit from it the way we do. It is our source of food, also for other people outside of our community.
What does your community do to make the fishery more sustainable?
Our fishing corporation and WWF organized workshops about monitoring the fishery using new technology, like the application Trazapp, to avoid overexploitation. Another project we recently implemented with WWF focused on the incidental catch of sea turtles in the nets, called bycatch, and how to protect them, because they are endangered. A long time ago, fishermen sometimes caught sea turtles to eat, because there was no knowledge about the species.
“Sea turtles now stay away from the fishing nets and the fishermen are more aware of the importance to protect them and other marine species.”
We worked with LED lights, a technology that avoids sea turtles getting tangled up in fishing nets accidently. When we started the project, it was not easy; because of the pandemic, people were scared to get infected. We therefore worked in small groups, applying all security protocols, and organized virtual workshops coordinated by WWF to learn about how to prepare and use this LED technology. I organized these activities with other women of the fishing corporation and for us it was the first time working virtually. After the workshops people started using the lights. Sea turtles now stay away from the fishing nets and the fishermen are more aware of the importance to protect them and other marine species.
Photo credit: María Inés Ayala Loro
This project has been very important to the community, because we learn how to take better care of the ocean. I believe it to be a great learning opportunity for us women -- now we can support our fishery more. We motivated our husbands to use the LED lights while fishing. The women of the community participate in these kinds of activities because we want to improve our quality of life.
“Due to the positive experience, we had with previous projects we developed with WWF, we would like to learn more about new technologies that can support the fishery.”
How do you see the future role of women in fishery?
Back in the days, the women of our community did not really work in the fishery, but today we are more interested in supporting the work of our husbands. This is important because a fisher cannot spend a lot of time on land learning new things and therefore needs us women. From the coast, we monitor the fishing boats and perform administrative tasks. While the fishermen are out on the ocean, we can capacitate ourselves to share our gained knowledge with our husbands.
Due to the positive experience, we had with previous projects we developed with WWF, we would like to learn more about new technologies that can support the fishery. For example, we would like to have other ways to store the catches; icing does not always work well. I also would like to learn more about the rights and benefits fishermen have.
There are a lot of women in the community who would like to participate in projects benefiting our husbands and our families, as well as the ocean and marine species. We now know that technology can help us in different ways, and we want to learn more — it is how we can go forward as a coastal community.
Photo credit: María Inés Ayala Loro
“While the fishermen are out on the ocean,
we can capacitate ourselves to share our gained knowledge with our husbands.”
To women of coastal communities around the world I want to say that they should participate more in the fishing activities of their husbands. We have to continue learning to be able to conserve the marine species and the work of the fishermen. We have to motivate other women to clean beaches and take care of the ocean in general, because it feeds the entire world, and it has to keep giving us resources on the long term. Women in fishing communities have to increase our knowledge for the future of our livelihoods.