On the Job
Commercial fishers catch ocean fish and other marine life using nets, hooks, and traps.
When you hear the phrase "gone fishing" you probably think of a pair of feet dangling lazily over the edge of a pier, with a fishing pole laying next to someone catching a snooze while also catching some rays. Maybe some fish are caught in the process. However, if you've seen any of the episodes of TV's popular show "Deadliest Catch," you may have a whole new view of what it means to go fishing. The fishermen featured on this program show that commercial fishing (especially in the waters off Alaska) is anything but relaxing. In fact, this is one of the most dangerous - and perhaps exciting - occupations.The duties of commercial fishers differ depending on what they are trying to catch. In general, fishers start by connecting floats, weights, flags, or other items to nets, lines, or traps. They also bait hooks, cages, and pots. Fishers have some spots that they return to again and again. They also try new places. Sometimes they keep a lookout for fish, traveling around until they find a promising site. Next, they put the equipment in the water and anchor or tow it. After a period of time, fishers haul in equipment. They may attach nets to lifting devices to get them into the boat. This usually requires a second worker. One worker attaches the net and the second worker operates the lifting devices. Workers communicate by shouting or using hand signals.
Once the catch is on board, fishers sort their catch. They may measure some fish to make sure they meet the size requirement. Fish that are too small and other unwanted marine life are returned to the sea. Commercial fishers clean the fish they keep. They put these fish in the hold with salt and ice to keep them cold. Finally, they wash the deck and any equipment used to clean the fish. Back in port, commercial fishers sell their catch. This requires negotiating with buyers.
Commercial fishers have many other duties when they are not actively fishing. They must maintain their boats and equipment. They also may plan their next fishing trip. To do this they may consult their records of where they have had good luck in the past. Once they select a fishing area, fishers plot a course to get there. They stock the ship with supplies such as fuel, food, netting, and bait. Fishers also check the weather forecast to make sure it will be safe to go out.
Commercial fishing vessels gather fish hundreds of miles from shore. These large boats require a crew that includes a captain, a first mate, sometimes a second mate, a boatswain, and deckhands. The deckhands carry out the sailing and fishing operations. The rest of the crew plan and oversee the fishing operation.
Some full-time and many part-time fishers work on small boats in relatively shallow waters and often in sight of land. In these cases, navigation and communication needs are not as important. Crews are small. They usually only have one or two people who work together on all aspects of the fishing. Although most fishers are involved in commercial fishing, some captains and deckhands are primarily employed in sport or recreational fishing.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Plan fishing trip, select fishing area, and plot course.
- Monitor sea conditions.
- Select and purchase fuel, food, netting, bait, and cable.
- Stand lookout for schools of fish. Stand steering and engine-room watches.
- Connect accessories, such as floats, weights, flags, lights, or markers, to nets, lines, or traps.
- Put fishing equipment into water. Anchor or tow equipment according to method of fishing.
- Attach nets to lifting devices to bring them onto the boat.
- Signal other workers to move, hoist, and position loads.
- Pull and guide nets, traps, and lines onto vessel, by hand or using hoists.
- Remove catch from fishing equipment. Measure fish to make sure they are big enough to be kept.
- Sort and clean marine life. Return unwanted catch to sea.
- Place catch in containers and stow in hold with salt and ice.
- Negotiate with buyers for sale of catch.
- Wash deck, conveyors, knives, and other equipment, using brush, detergent, and water.
- Lubricate, adjust, and make minor repairs to engines and fishing equipment.
- Record date, harvest area, and yield in logbook.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Handle and move objects.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Control machines and processes.
- Repair and maintain mechanical equipment.
- Operate vehicles or mechanized equipment.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a low level of job-required social interaction. However, they have little privacy while confined aboard ship.
- Communicate with others mostly by face-to-face discussions.
- Are greatly responsible for the health and safety of others.
- Are responsible for the work done by others.
- Occasionally are placed in conflict situations in which others may be rude or angry.
- Work as part of a team.
- Work outside most of the time. They occasionally work inside the deckhouse or other sheltered areas of the boat.
- Work in varying weather conditions.
- Regularly wear protective or safety attire, such as gloves and foul-weather gear.
- May work physically near other workers.
- Are sometimes exposed to whole body vibration.
- Occasionally must get into awkward positions to reach cramped work spaces.
- Sometimes must work in very bright or very dim lighting conditions.
- Are exposed to loud sounds and distracting noise levels on a daily basis.
- Are occasionally exposed to hazardous equipment, such as winches, fishing gear, and hoists.
- Are occasionally exposed to contaminants such as diesel fumes and solvents.
- Are occasionally exposed to hazardous situations that produce cuts or minor burns. Hazards depend on the type of fishing, area, and time of year.
- Must be sure that all details of the job are performed and everything is done. Duties left undone can result in the loss of expensive gear or danger to crew members.
- Must be exact or highly accurate in performing the job. Keeping undersized fish can result in fines.
- Repeat the same physical activities.
- Often must make on-the-spot decisions that affect coworkers and their company.
- Are able to determine most of their daily tasks and goals without talking to a supervisor first. They often receive a set of instructions and then implement them over several days.
- Work in a stressful atmosphere.
- Must meet weekly and monthly deadlines.
- Often must match the pace of work to the speed of equipment.
- May be at sea overnight or for several months at a time.
- May travel from a few miles off shore to thousands of miles from their home port.
- May work rotating shifts. Crews of fishing boats stand lookout watches. Watches vary in length depending on the employer. Some are six hours on watch and six hours off.
- May work long hours while netting and hauling the catch aboard.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Stand for long periods while working on deck.
- Bend or twist the body.
- Keep or regain their balance.
- Use hands or fingers to grasp, move, or assemble objects when repairing or assembling fishing gear.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Use muscles for extended periods without getting tired.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- See objects in very bright or very low light.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- While looking forward, see objects or movements that are off to the side.
- Determine from which direction a sound came.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.