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Jobs Outlook: Fishers and Fishing Vessel Operators




Employment of fishers and fishing vessel operators is expected to decline through the year 2012. These workers depend on the natural ability of fish stocks to replenish themselves through growth and reproduction, as well as on governmental regulation of fisheries. Many operations are currently at or beyond the maximum sustainable yield, partially because of habitat destruction, and the number of workers who can earn an adequate income from fishing is expected to decline. Many fishers and fishing vessel operators leave the occupation because of the strenuous and hazardous nature of the job and the lack of steady, year-round income. Some job openings will nevertheless arise from the need to replace workers who leave the occupation or retire.

The use of sophisticated electronic equipment for navigation, for communication, and for locating fish has raised the efficiency of finding fish stocks. Also, improvements in fishing gear and the use of highly automated floating processors, where the catch is processed aboard the vessel, have greatly increased fish hauls. In many areas, particularly the North Atlantic and Pacific Northwest, damage to spawning grounds and excess fishing capacity have adversely affected the stock of fish and, consequently, the employment opportunities for fishers. Some States have issued various types of restrictions on harvesting, to allow stocks of fish and shellfish to replenish themselves, thereby idling many fishers. In addition, low prices for some species and rising seafood imports are adversely affecting fishing income. Sportfishing boats, however, will continue to provide some job opportunities.

Governmental efforts to replenish stocks are having positive results, which should increase the stock of fish at some point in the future. Furthermore, efforts by private fishers’ associations on the West Coast to increase government monitoring of the fisheries may help significantly to prevent the type of decline in fish stocks found in waters off the East Coast. Nevertheless, fewer fishers and fishing vessel operators are expected to make their living from the Nation’s waters in the years ahead.