Abstract: ‘Fishermen’ and the gender-neutral ‘fishers’ are the most common terms used to describe people who fish in the English language. However, there is a considerable debate as to which term is most appropriate. In academic journals, usage of ‘fishers’ for people who fish began in the 1960s and increased over time, until in 2013 and 2014 ‘fishers’ first exceeded usage of ‘fishermen’, despite being labelled ‘archaic’ in the Oxford English Dictionary. In journal searches ‘fishermen’ unambiguously referred to people who fish, but ‘fishers’ also referred to R.A. Fisher’s statistical tests (22%), the mammal, Pekania pennanti (5%), and other terms. Journal policies have played a role in the shift to ‘fishers’: e.g. Conservation Biology requires the use of ‘fishers’ while Fishery Bulletin requires ‘fishermen’. Partly as a result, in academia there are disciplinary and geographic variations, with greatest usage of ‘fishers’ in the field of conservation biology and in Australia. Surprisingly, word choice did not differ by the gender of the lead author. Many other languages also have gender-neutral terms for people who fish (e.g. Austronesian and Turkic languages), yet the word is still assumed to refer to men. While the gender-neutral term ‘fisher’ is more inclusive it is far from universally accepted, particularly by women and men in the North American fishing industry. The current shift towards the more inclusive term ‘fishers’ highlights the increasing disciplinary diversity within fisheries science, particularly in terms of gender.
By Lucy Rodina on September 30, 2015