Waves of change: Japan’s female fishers fill the gap in a struggling industry

Although women are helping to address a desperate labour shortage, they face resistance in a sector dominated by men

With one last heave, Mayumi Okada launches a heavy, sopping wet rope into the Pacific Ocean. As a fresh afternoon wind forms frothy crests on the waves, her husband, Kuniaki, leaves his cabin, peers over the edge of their boat and confirms that the latest batch of oyster “spat” larvae is in position, ready to mature into the plump, highly prized bivalves associated with this region of north-east Japan.

Three years ago, the couple abandoned regular careers to build a new life in Tomari, a tiny coastal community 500km (310 miles) north of Tokyo. Kuniaki, 54, had always dreamed of earning a living going out to sea. Mayumi was supportive, but she also had maritime ambitions of her own.

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