While most fishing industry employees don’t consider themselves merchant mariners, we’d like to welcome these brave men and women onto our Out2Sea social network with open arms. Just like merchant mariners, they work the world’s oceans and waterways and perform dangerous work. Sometimes, they also go for long periods of time without seeing their families.
The U.S. fishing industry takes on a different form depending on the state. Alaska, Maine and Louisiana are three of the most important states in the industry. We want this blog post to be a tribute to the people who staff the fishing industry in each of the aforementioned states.
The Last Frontier probably has the most lucrative fishing industry in the nation. Commercial fishing up in Alaska brings in more than $5 billion each year, in a state that contains well under a million people. Daring souls make their way up to Alaska each spring to try to find deckhand work on fishing boats. These jobs aren’t posted on job boards like Craigslist. Rather, people have to “walk the decks” and talk to captains in order to land them.
After a newbie lands their first job, he or she is labeled as a “greenhorn.” Salmon fishing employs most of the state’s fishermen, and the work is never easy. Those who have been in the industry longer than one season can all tell tales of past summers where they’ve made a year’s worth of income. And, of course, summers where they’ve made very little.
The gulf coast state of Louisiana is the second-largest supplier of seafood in the U.S. In contrast to Alaska, the fishing industry here is more family-based. Many families along the coast have made their living harvesting crab, shrimp and oysters for more than five generations. These families have had to deal with several challenges in recent years, however, due to natural disasters and oil spills.
In 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Louisiana fishing industry. Business has since improved, but the state’s fishermen are left to deal with other challenges. The dwindling oyster population, caused by oil dredging in the area, is one of them.
One of the unique things about Louisiana’s fishing industry, however, is that the fossil fuel and fishing industries often share the very same employees. During the fishing off-season, many younger men whose families own fishing boats head to the offshore oil rigs in search of temporary work.
To complete our coast-to-coast journey, we now bring you to Maine, which also features something of a family-run fishing industry. Lobster fishing is big up and down the entire New England coastline, but especially in Maine. In fact, waiting lists are so long for people looking to work in the industry that the state has a mandatory apprenticeship program for anyone wanting to become a lobster fisherman.
Lobster fishermen in Maine have hundreds of traps each, which they typically set out overnight and pull up the next morning. Fishmen face many dangers, from rough seas to the chance of getting pulled overboard by the ropes attached to traps.
While the rising cost of bait and fuel has made lobster fishing less profitable in recent years, it’s still one of the primary industries driving Maine’s economy.
Got any advice to offer about the fishing industry? Come share it with the community by visiting our Board!