Bureau of Labor Statistics

Fishing and Hunting Workers

Fishers and related fishing workers
Fishers use nets to catch fish.
Quick Facts: Fishing and Hunting Workers
2020 Median Pay
Typical Entry-Level Education No formal educational credential
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2020 32,300
Job Outlook, 2020-30 11% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 3,400

Summary

What Fishing and Hunting Workers Do

Fishing and hunting workers catch and trap various types of animal life.

Work Environment

The work environment for fishing and hunting operations varies with the region, body of water or land, and kinds of animals sought. Fishing and hunting workers often work under hazardous conditions that can lead to injuries or fatalities.

How to Become a Fishing or Hunting Worker

Fishing and hunting workers usually learn on the job. No formal education is required.

Pay

Wage data reported for this occupation were updated most recently in May 2017.

The median annual wage for fishing and hunting workers was $28,530 in May 2017.

Job Outlook

Employment of fishing and hunting workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 5,300 openings for fishing and hunting workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for fishing and hunting workers.

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

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

What Fishing and Hunting Workers Do

fishers and related fishing workers image
The fish and wild animals that fishers and hunting workers catch and trap are used for food, bait, and other purposes.

Fishing and hunting workers catch and trap various types of animal life. The fish and wild animals they catch are for human food, animal feed, bait, and other uses.

Duties

Fishers and related fishing workers typically do the following:

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

Hunters and trappers typically do the following:

  • Locate wild animals with the use of animal-finding equipment
  • Catch wild animals with weapons, such as rifles or bows, or with traps, such as snares
  • Sort, pack, and store the catch with ice and other freezing methods
  • Follow hunting regulations, which vary by state and always include a safety component
  • Sell what they catch for food and decorative purposes

Fishers and related fishing workers work in deep or shallow water. In deep water, they typically perform their duties on large fishing boats that are equipped for long stays at sea. Some process the catch on board and prepare the fish for sale.

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

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

The following are types of fishers and related fishing workers:

  • Fishing boat captains plan and oversee the fishing operation including the species of fish to be caught, the location of the best fishing grounds, the method of capture, trip length, and sale of the catch. They also supervise the crew and record daily activities in the ship’s log.To plot a ship’s course, fishing boat captains use electronic navigational equipment, including Global Positioning System (GPS) instruments. They also use radar and sonar to avoid obstacles above and below the water and to find fish.
  • Fishing deckhands perform the everyday tasks of baiting; setting lines or traps; hauling in and sorting the catch; and maintaining the boat and fishing gear. Deckhands also secure and remove mooring lines when docking or undocking the boat.

Fishers work in commercial fishing, which does not include recreational fishing. For more information on workers on boats that handle fishing charters, see the profile on water transportation workers.

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 other agricultural managers.

Hunters and trappers locate wild animals with GPS instruments, compasses, charts, and whistles. They then catch or kill them with traps or weapons. Hunters and trappers sell the wild animals they catch, for either food, fur, or decorative purposes.

Work Environment

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

Fishing and hunting workers held about 32,300 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of fishing and hunting workers were as follows:

Fishing, hunting and trapping 48%
Self-employed workers 42

Fishing and hunting operations are conducted under various environmental conditions, depending on the geographic region, body of water or land, and kinds of animals 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 and hunting can be dangerous and can lead to workplace injuries or fatalities. Fishing and hunting workers often work under hazardous conditions. Transportation to a hospital or doctor is often not readily available for these workers because they can be out at sea or in a remote area.

And although fatalities are uncommon, fishing and hunting workers experience one of the highest rates of occupational fatalities of all occupations.

Most fatalities that happen to 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, shipwrecks, or other dangerous situations, such as vessels becoming caught in storms. For more information on injuries and fatalities of fishers and fishing related works, read the Beyond the Numbers article “Facts of the catch: occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities to fishing workers, 2003–2009.

Hunting accidents can occur because of the weapons and traps these workers use. Hunters and trappers minimize injury by wearing the appropriate gear and following detailed safety procedures. Specific safety guidelines vary by state.

Work Schedules

Fishing and hunting workers often endure long shifts and irregular work schedules. 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 who are available for seasonal work, such as teachers. For example, employment of fishers in Alaska increases significantly during the summer months, which constitute the salmon season. During these times, fishers can expect to work long hours. Additionally, states may only allow hunters and trappers to hunt or trap during certain times of the year depending on the type of wild animals sought.

How to Become a Fishing or Hunting Worker

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

Fishing and hunting workers usually learn on the job. A formal educational credential is not required.

Education

A formal educational credential is not required for one to become fishing or hunting worker. However, fishers may improve their chances of getting a job by enrolling in a 2-year vocational–technical program. 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. These programs are typically located near coastal areas and include hands-on experience.

Training

Most fishing and hunting workers learn on the job. They first learn how to sort and clean the animals they catch. Fishers would go on to learn how to operate the boat and fishing equipment.

Other Experience

Many prospective fishers start by finding work through family or friends, or simply by walking around the docks and asking for employment. Aspiring fishers also can look online for employment. Some larger trawlers and processing ships are run by big fishing companies with human resources departments to which new workers can apply. Operators of large commercial fishing vessels must complete a training course approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Most hunters and trappers have previous recreational hunting experience.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Captains of fishing boats and hunters and trappers must be licensed.

Crewmembers on certain fish-processing vessels may need a merchant mariner’s document. The U.S. Coast Guard issues these documents, as well as licenses, to people who meet 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.

Hunters and trappers need a state license to hunt in any land or forest. Licenses specify the hunting season, the type and amount of wild animals that may be caught, and the type of weapons or traps that can be used.

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. In doing so, they must meet the Coast Guard’s licensing requirements as well. For more information, see the profile on water transportation workers.

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

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Fishing and hunting workers must reach conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment. They determine how to improve their catch and must react appropriately to weather conditions.

Detail oriented. Fishing and hunting workers must be precise and accurate when measuring the quality of their catch or prey. They must also pay attention to detail when working with various fishing and hunting gear to guard against injury.

Listening skills. Because they take instructions from captains and other crewmembers or hunters, fishing and hunting workers need to communicate well and listen effectively.

Machine operation skills. Fishing and hunting workers must be able to operate and perform routine maintenance on complex fishing and navigation machinery, as well as weapons and traps.

Physical stamina. Fishing and hunting workers need endurance. They must be able to work long hours, often under strenuous conditions.

Physical strength. Fishing and hunting workers must use physical strength, along with hand dexterity and coordination, to perform difficult tasks repeatedly.

Pay

Fishing and Hunting Workers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

$29,670

 

Wage data reported for this occupation were updated most recently in May 2017.

The median annual wage for fishing and hunting workers was $28,530 in May 2017. 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 $18,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,170.

Fishers are typically paid a percentage of the boat’s overall catch, commonly referred to as a crew share. The more fish that are caught, the greater the crew share becomes. This can lead to unpredictable swings in pay from one season to another, as the overall catch can vary. More experienced crewmembers often receive a greater share compared to entry-level workers.

Trappers are typically paid per pelt, and the amount received can vary depending on the species and the quality of the fur. For example, trappers typically receive more for coyote pelts than for smaller species, such as muskrats.

Fishing and hunting 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 who are available for seasonal work, such as teachers. For example, employment of fishers in Alaska increases significantly during the summer months, which constitute the salmon season. During these times, fishers can expect to work long hours. Additionally, states may only allow hunters and trappers to hunt or trap during certain times of the year.

Job Outlook

Fishing and Hunting Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Fishing and hunting workers

11%

Total, all occupations

8%

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

3%

 

Employment of fishing and hunting workers is projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 5,300 openings for fishing and hunting workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020. Employment of fishing and hunting workers depends on the availability of fish stocks and wild animals.

Governmental efforts to replenish fish stocks have led to some species being regulated under fishing quotas or catch shares. These quotas dictate how many fish each fisher may catch and keep. Additional quotas or catch shares typically may be purchased, but they are often expensive. The implementation of additional catch-share programs may limit demand for fishers over the decade. However, new programs must undergo years of research and public review before being approved.

Animal pelts will continue to be used to manufacture fur coats, hats, and gloves, which may increase demand for trappers. However, most of the fur used in clothing comes from ranches or farms that breed, maintain, and harvest desirable species, such as mink.

Employment projections data for fishing and hunting workers, 2020-30

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

Occupational Title

Fishing and hunting workers

SOC Code45-3031
Employment, 202032,300
Projected Employment, 203035,800
Percent Change, 2020-3011
Numeric Change, 2020-303,400
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Water transportation occupations Water Transportation Workers

Water transportation workers operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water.

See How to Become One $59,250
Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers run establishments that produce crops, livestock, and dairy products.

High school diploma or equivalent $68,090

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Fishing and Hunting Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/farming-fishing-and-forestry/fishers-and-related-fishing-workers.htm (visited October 10, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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