Fishers and Related Fishing Workers

Summary

fishers and related fishing workers image
Fishers and fishing workers catch and trap various types of marine life.
Quick Facts: Fishers and Related Fishing Workers
2012 Median Pay $33,430 per year
$16.07 per hour
Entry-Level Education Less than high school
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 31,300
Job Outlook, 2012-22 -5% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2012-22 -1,600

What Fishers and Related Fishing Workers Do

Fishers and related fishing workers catch and trap various types of marine life. The fish they catch are for human food, animal feed, bait, and other uses.

Work Environment

The work environment for fishing operations varies depending on the region, body of water, and kinds of fish sought. Fishers and related fishing workers often work under hazardous conditions that can lead to injuries or fatalities

How to Become a Fisher or Related Fishing Worker

Fishers and related fishing workers usually learn on the job. No formal education is required.

Pay

The median annual wage for fishers and related fishing workers was $33,430 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of fishers and related fishing workers is projected to decline 5 percent from 2012 to 2022. Fishers and related fishing workers depend on the natural ability of fish stocks to replenish themselves through growth and reproduction.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of fishers and related fishing workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about fishers and related fishing workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Fishers and Related Fishing Workers Do About this section

Fishers and related fishing workers
Fishers use nets to catch fish.

Fishers and related fishing workers catch and trap various types of marine life. The fish they catch are for human food, animal feed, bait, and other uses.

Duties

Fishers and related fishing workers typically do the following:

  • Locate fish using fish-finding equipment
  • Direct fishing operations and supervise the crew of fishing vessels
  • Steer vessels and operate navigational instruments
  • Maintain engines, fishing gear, and other onboard equipment by doing minor repairs
  • Sort, pack, and store the catch in holds with salt and ice
  • Measure fish to ensure they comply with legal size
  • Return undesirable or illegal catches to the water
  • Guide nets, traps, and lines onto vessels by hand or using hoisting equipment
  • Signal other workers to move, hoist, and position loads

To plot the ship's course, fishing boat captains use compasses, charts, and electronic navigational equipment, including global positioning systems (GPS). They also use radar and sonar to avoid obstacles above and below the water and to find fish.

Some fishers work in deep water on large fishing boats that are equipped for long stays at sea. Some process the fish they catch on board and prepare them for sale.

Other fishers work in shallow water on small boats that often have a crew of only one or two members. They might put nets across the mouths of rivers or inlets, or pots and traps for fish or shellfish such as lobsters and crabs, or they might use dredges to gather other shellfish, such as oysters and scallops.

A small portion of commercial fishing requires diving with diving suits or scuba gear. These divers use spears to catch fish and nets to gather shellfish, sea urchins, abalone, and sponges.

Some fishers harvest marine vegetation rather than fish. They use rakes and hoes to gather Irish moss and kelp.

Although most fishers work in commercial fishing, some in this occupation use their expertise in sport or recreational fishing.

Aquaculture—raising and harvesting fish and other aquatic life under controlled conditions in ponds or confined bodies of water—is a different field. For more information, see the profile on farmers, ranchers, and agricultural managers.

The fishing boat captain plans and oversees the fishing operation, the fish to be sought, location of the best fishing grounds, method of capture, duration of the trip, and sale of the catch. Captains direct the fishing operation and record daily activities in the ship’s log. Increasingly, they use the Internet to bypass processors and sell their fish directly to consumers, grocery stores, and restaurants.

Fishers that specialize in catching certain species include crabbers and lobster catchers.

Work Environment About this section

Fishers and related fishing workers
Fishers and fishing workers work under various environmental conditions, depending on the region, body of water, and the kind of species sought.

Fishers and related fishing workers held about 31,300 jobs in 2012. About 57 percent were self-employed. Fishing operations are conducted under various environmental conditions, depending on the region, body of water, and kinds of fish sought. Storms, fog, and wind may hamper fishing vessels or cause them to suspend fishing operations and return to port.

Although fishing gear has improved and operations have become more mechanized, netting and processing fish are nonetheless strenuous activities. Newer vessels have improved living quarters and amenities, but crews still experience the aggravations of confined quarters and the absence of family.

Injuries and Illnesses

Commercial fishing can be dangerous, and lead to workplace injuries or even fatalities. Fishers and related fishing workers often work under hazardous conditions, and transportation to a hospital or doctor is often not readily available. Most fatalities for fishers and related fishing workers are from drowning. The crew must guard against the danger of injury from malfunctioning fishing gear, entanglement in fishing nets and gear, slippery decks, ice formation, or large waves washing over the deck. Malfunctioning navigation and communication equipment and other factors may lead to collisions or shipwrecks.

Work Schedules

Fishers and related fishing workers endure strenuous outdoor work and long hours. Commercial fishing trips may require workers to be away from their home port for several weeks or months.

Many fishers are seasonal workers, and those jobs are usually filled by students and by people from other occupations, such as teachers. For example, employment of fishers in Alaska more than doubles during the summer months, which is the salmon season.

How to Become a Fisher or Related Fishing Worker About this section

Fishers and related fishing workers
Fishers and related fishing workers usually acquire their occupational skills on the job.

Fishers and related fishing workers usually learn on the job. No formal education is required.

Education

Formal education is not required to be a fisher. However, by enrolling in 2-year vocational-technical programs offered by some high schools, fishers can improve their chances of getting a job. In addition, some community colleges and universities offer fishery technology and related programs that include courses in seamanship, vessel operations, marine safety, navigation, vessel repair, and fishing gear technology. Secondary and postsecondary programs are typically located near coastal areas and include hands-on experience.

Training

Most fishers learn on the job. They start by finding work through family or friends, or simply by walking around the docks and asking for employment. Aspiring fishers can also look online for potential employment. Some larger trawlers and processing ships are run by larger companies, in which new workers can apply through the companies’ human resources department. Operators of large commercial fishing vessels must complete a Coast Guard-approved training course.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Fishers and related fishing workers must measure the quality of their catch, which requires precision and accuracy.

Critical-thinking skills. Fishers and related fishing workers reach conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment. They determine how to improve the catch and must react appropriately to weather conditions.

Listening skills. Fishers and related fishing workers need to work well with others—they take instructions from captains and others—so effective listening is critical.

Machine operation skills. Fishers and related fishing workers must be able to operate complex fishing machinery competently and occasionally do routine maintenance.

Navigation skills. Fishers and related fishing workers must use complex tools to navigate boats to where the highest concentration of fish is located.

Physical stamina. Fishers and related fishing workers must be able to work long hours, often in strenuous conditions.

Physical strength. Fishers and related fishing workers must use physical strength along with hand dexterity and coordination to perform difficult tasks repeatedly.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Captains of fishing boats must be licensed.

Crew members on certain fish-processing vessels may need a merchant mariner’s document. The U.S. Coast Guard issues these documents and licenses to people who meet the specific health, physical, and academic requirements.

States set licensing requirements for boats operating in state waters, defined as inland waters and waters within 3 miles of the coast.

Fishers need a permit to fish in almost any water. Permits are distributed by states for state waters and by regional fishing councils for federal waters. The permits specify the fishing season, the type and amount of fish that may be caught, and sometimes the type of permissible fishing gear.

Advancement

Experienced, reliable fishing boat deckhands can become boatswains, then second mates, first mates, and, finally, captains. Those who are interested in ship engineering may gain experience with maintaining and repairing ship engines to become licensed chief engineers on large commercial boats. This requires meeting the Coast Guard's licensing requirements. For more information, see the profile on water transportation occupations.

Almost all captains are self-employed, and most eventually own, or partially own, one or more fishing boats.

Pay About this section

Fishers and Related Fishing Workers

Median annual wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Fishers and related fishing workers

$33,430

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

$19,370

 

The median annual wage for fishers and related fishing workers was $33,430 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,130, and the top 10 percent earned more than $58,470.

Fishers and related fishing workers endure strenuous outdoor work and long hours. Commercial fishing trips may require workers to be away from their home port for several weeks or months.

Many fishers are seasonal workers, and those jobs are usually filled by students and by people from other occupations, such as teachers. For example, employment of fishers in Alaska more than doubles during the summer months, which is the salmon season.

Job Outlook About this section

Fishers and Related Fishing Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Total, all occupations

11%

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

-3%

Fishers and related fishing workers

-5%

 

Employment of fishers and related fishing workers is projected to decline 5 percent from 2012 to 2022.

Fishers and related fishing workers depend on the natural ability of fish stocks to replenish themselves through growth and reproduction. They also depend on governmental regulation to promote replenishment of fisheries. In order to conserve the fish population in the coming years, the need for setting catch limits has risen. Additionally, improvements in fishing gear and vessel design have increased fish hauls.

Governmental efforts to replenish stocks are getting some positive results, which should increase fish stocks in the future. The U.S. government recently set catch limits for every species it manages.

Rising seafood imports and increasing competition from farm-raised fish are affecting fishing income and causing some fishers to leave the industry. However, because competition from farm-raised and imported seafood tends to be concentrated in specific species, some regions are more affected than others.

Job Prospects

Most job openings will result from the need to replace fishers and related fishing workers who leave the occupation. Many workers leave because of the strenuous and hazardous nature of the job and the lack of a steady year-round income. The best prospects should be with large fishing operations and for seasonal employment. Opportunities with small independent fishers are expected to be limited.

Employment projections data for fishers and related fishing workers, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Fishers and related fishing workers

45-3011 31,300 29,700 -5 -1,600 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of fishers and related fishing workers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
slaughterers and meat packers image

Slaughterers, Meat Packers, and Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters and Trimmers

Slaughterers, meat packers, and meat, poultry, and fish cutters and trimmers kill, clean, or prepare animals for sale or further processing. They also cut, prepare, or package meats for wholesale or retail sale.

Less than high school $23,320
Water transportation occupations

Water Transportation Occupations

Workers in water transportation occupations operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water. These vessels travel to and from foreign ports across the ocean, to domestic ports along the coasts, across the Great Lakes, and along the country’s many inland waterways.

See How to Become One $48,980

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about licensing of fishing boat captains and about requirements for merchant mariner documentation, visit

National Maritime Center, Coast Guard Headquarters

For information about injuries and safety issues, visit

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

 “Facts of the catch: occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities to fishing workers, 2003–2009,” Beyond the Numbers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 2012.

O*NET

Fishers and Related Fishing Workers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Fishers and Related Fishing Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/fishers-and-related-fishing-workers.htm (visited October 25, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014