Story last updated at 11/18/2009 - 11:59 am
What is the average age of Alaska deck hands and where do they all live?
Find the answers in this month's issue of Alaska Economic Trends by the state Dept. of Labor, which highlights "Employment in Alaska's Seafood Industry."
Here's a sampler: Fish harvesting jobs in Alaska have shown two distinct trends over the past nine years. From 2000 to 2002, employment numbers fell dramatically; then through 2008, fishing jobs stabilized and recovered a bit. Over the entire period, harvesting employment lost 1,436 jobs, a 16.5 percent decrease.
When fish harvesters are combined with processing workers, 52,000 people were directly employed in the seafood industry in 2008. A breakdown by age groups shows that 47 percent of Alaska deckhands were 29 or younger. Permit holders were much older than their crew, with an average age of 46. Processing workers had an average age of 39.
Forty-six percent of Alaska's crew members lived outside the state in 2008. Of the 54 percent who lived in Alaska, 82 percent lived in a coastal region, and 18 percent lived in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Southeast was home to just over 14 percent of Alaska's deckhands, 10.2 percent lived in Southcentral, 5.9 percent in Western Alaska, 5.4 percent in Bristol Bay, 4.9 percent in Kodiak, and 3.1 percent lived in the Aleutians/Pribilof region.
For permit holders, 21.1 percent resided in Southeast, 13.5 percent in Western Alaska, 13.1 percent in Southcentral, 8.1 percent in Anchorage, 6.9 percent in Bristol Bay, 4.6 percent in Kodiak, 2 percent lived in Aleutians/Pribilof region.
Twenty-seven percent of Alaska permit holders were nonresidents, and 74 percent of seafood processing workers lived outside the state.
Alaska has been the nation's top fishing state since 1975. More than 55 percent of total U.S. seafood landings come from Alaska, and 39 percent of the total value.
"That's pretty impressive for a state whose population amounts to only two-tenths of one percent of the nation's total," the report concluded. Find the seafood employment report at http://labor.alaska.gov/trends/nov09.pdf/.
Commercial fishing in Alaska is still the most dangerous job in the nation. According to the latest report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 126 Alaska fishermen died on the job from 2000 through 2008. That averages out to 14 fatalities a year-a rate that is 26 times greater than that of all U.S. workers.
Fifty-three percent of the deaths were caused by a vessel disaster that required all hands to abandon ship. The second largest category, 27 percent, came from falls overboard. The remaining deaths were due to injuries on deck or onshore, and while driving.
Most fishermen met their Maker in Alaska's salmon fisheries, cod and sole fisheries ranked second, followed by crab fisheries in the Bering Sea. In terms of region, over three-quarters of the fishing fatalities occurred in the Southwest region of Alaska, which includes the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Bristol Bay.
While the work related death rate for Alaska fishermen is still too high, it has decreased 42% percent since the early 1990s. Twenty to 40 fishing vessels are still lost annually, and roughly 100 fishermen are rescued from Alaska waters each year.
Find the report by Devin Lucas/NIOSH Anchorage at http://www.amsea.org/. Lucas also will provide results at Expo of a project in which over 200 Alaska fishermen field tested personal flotation devices for NIOSH.
Fisherman of the Year
Hundreds of Alaskans will be heading to Seattle this week for the 41st Pacific Marine Expo, and many might try their hand at the traditional Fisherman of the Year contest.
"They'll compete in blindfolded knot tying, net mending, rope splicing - and the winners of the various heats will then compete to see who can get into a survival suit the fastest," said Jerry Fraser, editor of National Fisherman magazine and host of the speedy competition.
Missing this year is the trawl egg toss, in which contestants would compete to throw a 15 pound electronic "egg" the farthest. (A trawl egg is an electronic sensor that tells the skipper when the net is full.)
"That was very popular, but it was also a little destructive and we broke some stuff at the Qwest Center the first year," Fraser said. "The management told us to take it outside." The Fisherman of the Year contest takes place Saturday, Nov. 21 at 1pm. Find the lineup of events, workshops and conferences at http://www.pacificmarineexpo.com/.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) has vacancies on several committees. Industry members who are interested in guiding ASMI's efforts can send a resume and letter of interest to email@example.com. Appointments will likely be made at the Dec. 3 ASMI board meeting.
New fishermen wanted
The Young Fishermen's Summit aims to prepare "recruitment" for Alaska's future fishing leaders. The Summit, Dec. 7-9 at the Anchorage Hilton, coincides with Board of Fisheries and North Pacific Fishery Management Council meetings. A joint reception with summit attendees is scheduled for December 8. Find out more and register for the Young Fishermen's Summit at http://www.alaskaseagrant.org/. Deadline is November 30.
Laine Welch has been covering news of Alaska's seafood industry since 1988. Her weekly Fish Factor column appears in a dozen newspapers and web outlets. Her daily Fish Radio programs air on 27 stations around Alaska. Welch lives in Kodiak.