Chamari T. D. Dadigamuwage
Dr. Chamari is a Senior Lecturer attached to the Department of Zoology, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka. She is a former UNU-FTP fellow and completed her PhD at the University of Iceland through the UNU-FTP scholarship programme. In her dissertation, she focused on how to assess and manage sea cucumber resources in the coastal waters of Sri Lanka. Currently she is trying to develop value-added sea cucumber products.
Women’s involvement in sea cucumber fishing industry: A case study from the northern Sri Lanka
The sea cucumber fishery has been practiced in Sri Lanka for several centuries. Although, all activities related to the sea cucumber fishing industry are carried out by fishermen, significant involvement of fisherwomen in this industry was evident in northern Sri Lanka with the end of thirty years civil war. This study evaluates the level of women’s involvement in the sea cucumber fishing industry in northern Sri Lanka using the data collected from September 2015 to October 2016 through direct observations, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews.
In Sri Lanka, sea cucumbers are mainly collected through diving (92%), gleaning (4%) and using fish nets (4%). Though diving and netting are mainly done by fishermen, gleaning which is commonly practiced in Valaipaadu and Allupitty areas in northern Sri Lanka is entirely carried out by fisherwomen. Around 27 fisherwomen currently involve in the sea cucumber collection and out of them 66.7% are wives of sea cucumber divers and the rest (33.3%) are widows who lost their husbands during the civil war period. All these women are in the age range of 18-60 years. Small (60± 12 g), medium (175±80) and large (450±236) size Holothuria scabra inhabiting in the shallow coastal waters is the main target species of the fisherwoman. They walk around 1.5 km from shore to shallow waters during the low tide period to collect sea cucumbers. In very shallow waters where the water depth is up to knee height (0.3±0.2 m), sea cucumbers are spot by naked eye, however when water depth is up to neck height (1.2 ±0.2m), they detect sea cucumbers using their feet. Sea cucumbers are collected by hand, packed in polythene bags and brought to the shore. As an average, a woman collects 1- 2 large individuals or 35±20 small to medium size individuals per day. Gleaning is carried out in Valaipaadu throughout the year and a woman earns ~LKR 7,600.00±1,900.00 per month. According to the fisherwomen, the ideal time to collect sea cucumbers in Valaipaadu area is two days before and after the full moon and new moon. In Allupitty area, gleaning is done from January to April and an average monthly income of a fisherwoman is ~LKR 27,500.00 ± 17,500.00. They do fishing ~14±7 days per month. Women face many risks such as fish attacks and jelly fish allergies during the sea cucumber collection.
Women also involve in sea cucumber processing activities such as cleaning, degutting and removal of chalky materials. For cleaning and degutting processes, woman is paid LKR 1.00 per piece and woman can clean and degut ~2000-3000 individuals per day. When removing of chalky materials, woman is paid LKR 800.00 per day including breakfast and lunch. Women are called for processing activities when their service is needed. At present 42 women depend on sea cucumber processing activities as their livelihood.
Most of the women (67%) are not satisfied for the price that they are paid for catches and processing activities, but they engage these activities as it generates an additional income for their livelihood.