Fish Innovation Lab Deputy Director on Empowering Women and More Equitable Fisheries and Aquaculture Management
This post originally appeared on the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish website.
Throughout her career in coastal conservation work, Elin Torell has sought opportunities to help communities build capacity through inclusion and equality.
“I have always loved spending time and working on ocean issues,” said Torell. “Growing up in Sweden defined many of the values that guide me today, those of inclusiveness and respect for people and our planet. I started out my career working on monitoring, evaluation, and learning of coastal conservation programs, and early on I became interested in the linkages between people, natural resources, and food security.”
With more than 15 years of experience providing technical assistance to and leading multidisciplinary projects across the globe, Torell brings this inclusive approach to her role as deputy director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish and also serves as the capacity-building specialist for the lab’s research portfolio, which includes projects in Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia.
“Working on coastal conservation, I realized that people who live along the coast do not manage their fisheries in isolation from other issues and in order to manage fisheries sustainably, one also must address issues such as education, access to health care, gender, and food security,” Torell said. “I came to realize that a sustainable future lies in balancing environmental conservation with equitable social and economic development.”
Torell, who also serves as director of international coastal programs at the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resource Center, wants to dispel the myth that fisheries and aquaculture are just for men. She believes that empowering women in all aspects of the fisheries sector is important for overall improvements in health, nutrition, and quality of life for families, especially those in developing countries and in communities dependent on fish for food and livelihood.
“Although we often think of fisheries as a male-dominated field, women are engaged in almost every part of the value chain, including funding fishing trips, gleaning fish along the shoreline, buying and processing fish, and more,” said Torell. “However, when the amount of fish declines, it has a big impact on women and children, who are often the most vulnerable in times of food shortage. I believe that if women are more involved in fisheries and aquaculture, management will become more equitable and well rounded.”
For Torell, more equitable management practices in fisheries and aquaculture could work hand-in-hand with more equitable management of households. Providing opportunities for more women to generate incomes and encouraging men to take on more roles at home could help create a more inclusive and equitable community overall.
“My vision is more equitable fishing and aquaculture communities where the traditional social norms related to who makes decisions, who should work in what sector, and who must feed, clean, and manage a household are challenged,” she said. “I dream about working in communities where women are economically empowered and engaged in fisheries management, but where men also increase their contributions to the running of their households.”