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Fisher Job Description, Career as a Fisher, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: None

Salary: Median—$8.19 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

The fishing industry is located mainly in towns and cities along the seacoasts. Also, there is limited commercial fishing in the Great Lakes. Fishers may stay near the shore or go hundreds of miles out to sea, depending on the kinds of fish they seek. They may use small boats or large, modern ships.

Some fishers fish in bays and harbors. They also make one-day trips to fish in the sea in small boats that are not more than sixty feet long. These fishers leave port in the morning and return in the evening with their catch. Some fishers use hand tools that look like garden rakes to dig for clams and oysters that live Fishermen untangle a net used on a fishing boat. Large fishing boats may remain at sea for weeks at a time. (© Kevin Fleming/Corbis.) under the sand in bays. Others use wire or wooden traps to catch crabs and lobsters. Fishers also use baited hooks and lines to fish.

Fishers engaged in offshore or deep-sea fishing work five to 150 miles from the mainland. The ships used in deep-sea fishing are sixty to two hundred feet long, and they generally have refrigerated holds to keep the catch fresh until the ship returns to port. These ships often have electronic depth finders and fish finders that take some guesswork out of commercial fishing.

Offshore fishers use nets to trap schools of fish. Depending on the kind of fish they are catching, fishers work on ships called trawlers, purse seiners, or gillnetters. The names of the different kinds of ships refer to the kinds of nets used. For example, purse seiners catch tuna. When the fishers find a school of tuna, they drop the net into the water. Simultaneously, they launch a small boat with a team of fishers aboard who tow the nets away from the seiner. Then they circle back to the seiner, trapping fish within the net. The fishers on board the seiner pull the nets toward the ship. When the trapped fish are close to the ship, the fishers use long-handled nets to scoop up the fish and toss them into the hold. They repeat this process until the hold is full.

Large fishing ships may remain at sea for weeks at a time. They travel over large areas in search of good fishing grounds. The fishers on these ships usually use nets, but they may use baited hooks and lines as well. Often they use reels powered by motors.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no education requirements for becoming a fisher. Nearly all fishers learn their skills on the job by working with experienced fishers. Interested students can take courses in subjects related to fishing at some high schools, vocational schools, and colleges. These courses may cover navigation, boat handling, safety practices, and weather forecasting. Some fishers also take courses in the repair and maintenance of the fishing equipment and engines and radios found on boats and ships.

Getting the Job

To get a job as a fisher, consider visiting a fishing community to make contacts that could lead to jobs. Jobs are sometimes advertised in the want ads of newspapers that serve these communities. State employment offices in or near fishing areas can provide job assistance. Friends and relatives who live in coastal areas could provide leads. Also check with people who own businesses related to fishing. Seafood wholesalers may know of fishing boats that are shorthanded. Businesses that sell fuel and bait may also be a good source of information about job openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced fishers can buy their own boats and go into business for themselves. To do so, they must have or be able to borrow a great deal of money. With experience and additional training, crew members can become captains and operate ships for large fishing companies.

The demand for fishers is expected to decline over the next few years. The number of fish has decreased over time due to excessive fishing and pollution. In addition, fishing operations are becoming increasingly efficient and automated. Jobs will arise as workers retire or leave the field.

Working Conditions

Fishers usually work on a voyage-by-voyage basis. Once they start catching fish, they may work long hours for days until their ships are full. After they return to port and unload their ships, they are usually free to seek other jobs or to sign on with other ships.

Fishing is hard work. Even on modern ships, fishers must unload heavy crates of fish by hand. Fishing equipment is heavy and bulky. Fishers may face bad weather when they are at sea. Some fall overboard. However, modern radios and navigational equipment make fishing far less dangerous than it once was. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard inspects ships to make sure that they are in good condition and that they carry life preservers and lifeboats. While they are at sea, fishers work and live in cramped quarters. Yet many fishers find that the pleasures of working at sea outweigh these hardships.

Where to Go for More Information

National Fisheries Institute
7918 Jones Branch Dr., Ste. 700
McLean, VA 22102
(703) 752-8880

National Fisherman
121 Free St.
Portland, ME 04101
(207) 842-5608

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries for fishers vary widely, depending on the region in which they fish and many other factors. The median hourly wage is $8.19. Fishers who work full time receive median weekly earnings of $300–$700. During a good year fishers who are self-employed can earn more than average, but bad weather and changing fish migrations could cause them to lose money. Hired fishers rarely receive benefits other than their meals and quarters when they are at sea. Self-employed fishers must provide their own benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAgribusiness, Environment, and Natural Resources