Fishy business: Five young harvesters explain why they’ve chosen to haul anchor for a life on the water

Posted on September 01, 2021 | By Jenn Thornhill Verma | 0 Comments

Atlantic Canada’s commercial fishery has one of the highest proportions of older workers in the region, with nearly one out of every three people employed in the fishing industry over the age of 55 years (the all-industry average is one in four). The fishing workforce in Atlantic Canada is also predominantly male (making up just over 70 per cent of total employment compared to the general labour industry at 50 per cent). Those employed in the fishery also tend to be temporary workers (44.6 per cent, compared to all industries at 16.4 per cent), which is largely attributable to the seasonal nature of the work. Wild fisheries bring a great deal of risk to life and livelihood too—it’s considered one of the deadliest sectors to work in Canada and the costs involved in enterprise-ownership are often too prohibitive for many prospective owners.

 

Photo of fisher Holly Greenham holding a fish
Fisher Holly Greenham

 

“The growth in value of wild fisheries provides significant opportunities for expansion,” said Keith Sullivan, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) in Newfoundland and Labrador. Attracting young people to the fishery requires overcoming a number of barriers and Sullivan said governments can help. Suggested examples of how government can support young harvesters and new entrants include adjustments to the loan guarantee programs and funding for programs and specialized training targeted to women in the fishery.

Here, a handful of fish harvesters ranging in age from 25- to 44-years-old, all from Newfoundland and Labrador, explain why they are choosing this life and how they are doing things differently from previous generations.

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