Asian Fisheries Society

Braving the Sea: The Amasan (Women Divers) of the Yahataura Fishing Community, Iki Island, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan.


Ama, or amasan which literally means “sea person”, are women and men divers who use rapid diving techniques without using scuba gear or compressed air. Honed by years of experience, the ama are professional divers whose diving prowess depends largely on their lung capacity, diving speed, resistance to cold, intuition for finding their target organisms and determination to succeed. Ama dive for seaweed, shellfish, sea urchin, lobster, sea cucumber, oyster, octopus and abalone, this last being the most preferred catch. Despite their significant contribution to the fishing industry, the ama remain invisible and marginalised.

Using participant observation, focus group discussion and key informant interviews, the present study provides a picture of the women ama in the fishing village of Yahataura, Iki Island, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. Female divers’ access to and control over resources, activities and time allocation, and access to administrative decision-making processes were examined in relation to that of male fishers. The results of the study substantiate the important role of women in the fishing communities and affirm the long standing social problem of their low status in society, especially compared to that of men. Some ways to improve their social standing in the community are suggested.

Publication Date : 2012-08-15

Volume : 25

Issue : Special Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries: Moving the Agenda Forward

Page : 29-45

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Date 2012/08/15
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