A new report in Alaska Economic Trends, a publication of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, puts the average number of fish harvesters employed every month in Alaska seafood harvests at 8,064 people. The previous 10-year high was 7,959 back in 2001.
Since fish harvesting is so seasonal and employment varies from fishery to fishery, comparing employment in any particular month is not always useful for identifying industry trends, wrote labor department research analyst Jack Cannon and economist Josh Warren. So they employed a fish harvesting job graph instead, and calculated that the greatest amount of fish harvesting employment came during the summer months of May, June and July.
Though salmon fisheries offer the most jobs by far and account for the majority of seasonal work, there are other season fisheries as well. Employment numbers for some fisheries are smaller than salmon’s but vary from month to month just as dramatically, the two men said.
In all nearly 4,700 mostly male harvesters fished for salmon.
Three gear types accounted for nearly 60 percent of harvesting jobs in 2011: longliners, set netters and gillnetters. The longliners caught primarily halibut, sable fish and other bottom fish, while the gillnetters and set netters targeted salmon.
Collectively they provided an average of 4,800 jobs a month.
The report also showed that most fish harvesters are men. Forty-five percent of all permit holders were between the ages of 45 and 60, with the average age being 47.
The data also showed that in 2011 there were roughly twice as many permit holders between the ages of 45 and 60 as there were permit holders between the ages of 30 and 44.
Crewmembers on average were much younger than the permit holders, with an age distribution center around 21. There was also a higher incidence of crewmembers in their mid-30s, dropping off in the older age range.