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Fishers, hunters, and trappers gather aquatic and animal species for human consumption, animal feed, bait, and other uses, and manage animals for research and control purposes. The range of occupational functions reflects the wide variety of aquatic and animal life and their environments.
Gathering fish hundreds of miles from shore with commercial fishing vesselslarge boats capable of hauling a catch of tens of thousands of pounds of fishrequires a crew that includes a captain, or skipper, a first mate and sometimes a second mate, boatswain, and deckhands.
The captain plans and oversees the fishing operationthe fish to be sought, the location of the best fishing grounds, the method of capture, the duration of the trip, and the sale of the catch. The captain ensures that the fishing vessel is in suitable condition; oversees the purchase of supplies, gear, and equipment such as fuel, netting, and cables; and hires qualified crew members and assigns their duties. The vessel's course is plotted with navigation aids such as compasses, sextants, and charts; it uses electronic equipment such as autopilots, a loran system, and satellites to navigate. The ships also use radar to avoid obstacles and depth sounders to indicate the water depth and the existence of marine life between the vessel and sea bottom. The captain directs the fishing operation through the officers, and records daily activities in the ship's log. Upon returning to port, the captain arranges for the sale of the catch directly to buyers or through a fish auction and ensures that each crew member receives the prearranged portion of the adjusted net proceeds from the sale of the catch.
The first matethe captain's assistant, who must be familiar with navigation requirements and the operation of all electronic equipmentassumes control of the vessel when the captain is off duty. These duty shifts, called "watches," usually last 6 hours. The mate's regular duty, with the help of the boatswain and under the captain's oversight, is to direct the fishing operations and sailing responsibilities of the deckhands. These include the operation, maintenance, and repair of the vessel and the gathering, preservation, stowing, and unloading of the catch.
The boatswain, a highly experienced deckhand with supervisory responsibilities, directs the deckhands as they carry out the sailing and fishing operations. Prior to departure, the boatswain directs the deckhands to load equipment and supplies, either manually or with hoisting equipment, and untie lines from other boats and the dock. When necessary, boatswains repair fishing gear, equipment, nets, and accessories. They operate the fishing gear, letting out and pulling in nets and lines. They extract the catch, such as pollock, flounder, menhaden, and tuna, from the nets or lines' hooks. Deckhands use dip nets to prevent the escape of small fish and gaffs to facilitate the landing of large fish. The catch is then washed, salted, iced, and stowed away. Deckhands also must ensure that decks are clear and clean at all times and that the vessel's engines and equipment are kept in good working order. Upon return to port, they secure the vessel's lines to and from the docks and other vessels. Unless "lumpers," or laborers, are hired, the deckhands unload the catch.
Large fishing vessels that operate in deep water generally have more technologically advanced equipment, and some may have facilities on board where the fish are processed and prepared for sale. They are equipped for longer stays at sea and can perform the work of several smaller boats. (For information about merchant marine occupations, see the section on water transportation occupations elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Some full-time and many part-time fishers work on small boats in relatively shallow waters and often in sight of land. Navigation and communication needs are modest, and there is little need for much electronic equipment or provisions for long stays at sea. Crews are smallusually only one or two people collaborate on all aspects of the fishing operation. This may include placing gill nets across the mouths of rivers or inlets, entrapment nets in bays and lakes, or pots and traps for shellfish such as lobsters and crabs. Dredges and scrapes are sometimes used to gather shellfish such as oysters and scallops. A very small proportion of commercial fishing is conducted as diving operations. Depending upon the water's depth, divers wearing regulation diving suits with an umbilical (air line) or a scuba outfit and equipmentuse spears to catch fish and nets and other equipment to gather shellfish, coral, sea urchins, abalone, and sponges. In very shallow waters, fish are caught from small boats having an outboard motor, or from rowboats, or by wading. Fishers use a wide variety of hand-operated equipmentfor example, nets, tongs, rakes, hoes, hooks, and shovelsto gather fish and shellfish, catch amphibians and reptiles such as frogs and turtles, and harvest marine vegetation such as Irish moss and kelp.
Although most fishers are involved with commercial fishing, some captains and deckhands are primarily employed in sport or recreational fishing. Typically a group of people charter a fishing vesselfor periods ranging from several hours to a number of daysfor sport fishing, socializing, and relaxation, and employ a captain and possibly several deckhands.
Hunters track, stalk, and sometimes kill their quarry, either for a government agency or as a guide for other people. They may hunt alone or with others and may use dogs to locate the quarry. They use guns or poisons to kill predatory animals such as coyotes. Alligator hunters may shoot their quarry after snaring it with baited hooks. All legal hunting activities are approved and monitored by the appropriate Federal, State, or local government agencies. Exceptions are made for Native Americans on their own reservations and Alaska Natives.
Trappers catch animals or birds using baited, scented, or camouflaged traps, snares, cages, or nets. Many hunters and trappers skin animals and prepare and sell the pelts and skins. Trappers also may be involved with animal damage control, wildlife management, disease control, and research activities. Animal damage control involves the disposition or relocation of animals that are a nuisance or pose a potential danger to humans or populated areas. Wildlife management involves the relocation of animalsfor example, muskrats and beaversto deal with environmental disruption or animal population imbalance. Disease control involves the capture and destruction of rabid animals that threaten public or animal health. Research activities include blood sampling for health determination and the banding of wildfowl to ascertain migratory movements.
Fishing, hunting, and trapping operations are conducted under various environmental conditions, depending on the region of the coun-try and the kind of species being sought. Fishing vessels may be hampered or imperiled by storms, fog, or wind. Divers are affected by murky water and unexpected shifts in underwater currents. Hunters and trappers are hampered or disrupted by storms and rough terrain.
Fishers, hunters, and trappers work under hazardous conditions, and often help is not readily available. Malfunctioning navigation or communication equipment may lead to collisions or even shipwrecks. Malfunctioning fishing gear poses the danger of injury to the crew, who also must guard against entanglement in fishing nets and gear, slippery decks resulting from fish processing operations, ice formation in the winter, or being swept overboarda fearsome situation. Treatment for serious injuries may have to await transfer to a hospital. Divers must guard against entanglement of air lines, malfunction of scuba equipment, decompression problems, or attacks by predatory fish. Hunters and trappers face numerous hazards such as assault by predators, falling branches and trees, slippery ground, danger of drowning by falling through ice on ponds, accidental self-inflicted gunshot and knife wounds, and snake and insect bites. Danger from incapacitating injuries is especially high, because these individuals often work alone in isolated areas. A disabled individual may die of injuries that could be routinely treated in an urban area.
This occupation entails strenuous outdoor work and long hours. Commercial fishing trips may require a stay of several weeks, or even months, hundreds of miles away from home port. The pace of work variesintense while netting and hauling the catch aboard and relatively relaxed while traveling between home port and the fishing grounds. However, lookout watchesusually 6 hours longare a regular responsibility and crew members must be prepared to stand watch at prearranged times of the day or night. Although fishing gear has improved and operations have become more mechanized, netting and processing fish are strenuous activities. Even though newer vessels have improved living quarters and amenities such as television and shower stalls, crews still experience the aggravations of confined conditions, continuous close personal contact, and the absence of family. Hunters and trappers generally must travel many miles by car or truck and then carry equipment and supplies on foot through swamps or forests, over rugged terrain. Long hoursdawn to duskoften are the rule, and many spend lonely nights camped out in sparsely populated, forested, or mountainous areas.
Fishers, hunters, and trappers held an estimated 49,000 jobs in 1994. Over half were self-employed. About 1 in 6 of them worked part time, particularly in the summer, when demand for these workers peaks.
Captains, mates, and deckhands on fishing vessels accounted for the majority of these jobs. Trappers, and to a lesser extent hunters, accounted for the remaining jobs.
Outside of the fishing, hunting, and trapping industry, some people employed in this occupation are involved in sport fishing activities, while small numbers are employed by museums. Others work for government or buy and sell fur.
Fishers generally acquire their occupational skills on the job, many as members of families involved in fishing activities. No formal academic requirements exist. Under a Coast Guard legislative proposal, operators of federally documented commercial fishing vessels will be required to complete a Coast Guard-approved training course. Young people can expedite their entrance into these occupations by enrolling in 2-year vocational-technical programs offered by secondary schools, primarily in coastal areas. In addition, the University of Rhode Island offers a bachelor's degree program in fishery technology that includes courses in seamanship, vessel operations, marine safety, navigation, vessel repair and maintenance, health emergencies, and fishing gear technology, and is accompanied by hands-on experience.
Experienced fishers may find short-term workshops offered through various postsecondary institutions especially useful. These programs provide a good working knowledge of electronic equipment used in navigation and communication and the latest improvements in fishing gear.
Captains and mates on larger fishing vessels of at least 200 gross tons must be licensed. Captains of sport fishing boats used for charter, regardless of size, also must be licensed. Crew members on certain fish processing vessels may need a merchant mariner's document. These documents and licenses are issued by the U.S. Coast Guard to individuals who meet the stipulated health, physical, and academic requirements.
Fishers must be in good health and possess physical strength. Coordination and mechanical aptitude are necessary to operate, maintain, and repair equipment and fishing gear. They need perseverance to work long hours on the sea, often under difficult conditions. On larger vessels, they must be able to work as members of a team. They must be patient, yet always alert, to overcome the boredom of long watches when not engaged in fishing operations. The ability to assume any deckhand's functions, on short notice, is important. Mates must have supervisory ability and be able to assume any deckhand's and the captain's duties, when necessary. The captain must be highly experienced, mature, decisive, and possess the necessary business skills. Captains with initiative and the required capital often become boat owners.
On fishing vessels, most fishers begin as deckhands. Deckhands whose experience and interests are in ship engineeringmaintenance and repair of ship engines and equipmentcan eventually become licensed chief engineers on large commercial vessels after meeting the U.S. Coast Guard's experience, physical, and academic requirements. Divers in fishing operations can enter commercial diving activityfor example, ship repair and pier and marina maintenanceusually after completion of a certified training program sponsored by an educational institution or industry association. Experienced, reliable deckhands who display supervisory qualities may become boatswains. Boatswains may, in turn, become second mates, first mates, and finally captains. Almost all captains become self-employed, and the overwhelming majority eventually own or have an interest in one or more fishing ships. Some may choose to run a sport or recreational fishing operation. When their seagoing days are over, experienced individuals may work in or, with the necessary capital, own stores selling fishing and marine equipment and supplies. Some captains may assume advisory or administrative positions in industry trade associations or government offices such as harbor development commissions, or teaching positions in industry-sponsored workshops or in educational institutions.
Hunters and trappers generally acquire their knowledge of wildlife and hunting and trapping equipment and supplies gradually, through experience. Some are members of rural families for whom hunting and trapping have been a way of life for generations. Formal training for hunters consists of a federally mandated and State sponsored hunter safety class, covering safety and ethics, which must be passed prior to being issued a hunting license in almost every State. Inexperienced individuals may join an established sports association to observe professional demonstrations and gain knowledge of hunting weapons and related equipment and tracking and survival techniques. After acquiring the mandatory State hunting license, they should hunt with an experienced hunter as an apprentice. Government hunters who hunt rabid or nuisance animals may be trained in the use of airplanes or helicopters.
Trappers may undergo various forms of training. For those interested in the sale of animals and their skins, pelts, or furs, experience is fundamental. Inexperienced trappers may serve an internship under the supervision of a professional trapper and take trapper education programs. Trapper education programs are offered by State wildlife departments or State trappers associations; in some States, these programs are mandatory. A trapper's license permits the trapping of animals forbidden to unlicensed trappers. Trappers interested in research associated with control and management of wildlife populations and disease may take courses, or even complete a degree program, in wildlife biology, wildlife management, or related fields.
Hunters and trappers must be in good health, possess physical strength and stamina, and have the desire, patience, and ability to work outdoors, sometimes for long periods, under difficult conditions. Maturity and judgment are important to deal with hazards. Good physical coordination and mechanical aptitude are necessary to safely and skillfully use hunting weapons and trapping equipment and to maintain camping and other gear.
Some hunters are employed by the Federal or State governments to work in such areas as predator control. Other hunters who have extensive experience may work as guides for hunting parties. Those with initiative, business skills, and the required capital may become self-employed outfitters, some of whom own sites in the wilds. Outfitters organize hunting parties, select hunting areas, and assume responsibility for the hunting expeditionproviding equipment and supplies, instructing the party members in hunting techniques and safety measures, and overseeing leisure activities during the expedition. Most States require a license to work as a hunting guide.
Experienced trappers with the appropriate academic background may enter other occupations, such as wildlife technician, or wildlife refuge manager. Professional trappers with business skills and initiative may become self-employed fur traders.
Employment of fishers, hunters, and trappers is expected to decline through the year 2005. Hunting, fishing, and trapping occupations depend on the natural ability of stock to replenish itself through growth and reproduction. Many operations are currently at or beyond maximum sustainable yield, and the number of workers who can earn an adequate income from fishing, hunting, and trapping is expected to decline. Most job openings will arise from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation. Some fishers, hunters, and trappers leave the occupation because of the strenuous and hazardous nature of the job, and the lack of steady, year-round income.
Different factors will affect employment among these occupations. In many areas, particularly the North Atlantic, over fishing and pollution have adversely affected the stock of fish and, consequently, the demand for fishers. In some areas, States have greatly reduced permits to fishers to allow stocks of fish and shellfish to replenish themselves, idling many fishers. However, this also has helped spur the growth of a closely related field, aquaculturethe raising and harvesting of fish and other aquatic life in ponds or artificial bodies of water for commercial purposes. Aquaculture should be most prominent in the South, where the climate is best suited for the growth of most freshwater fish, except perhaps salmon and trout, which are farmed elsewhere.
Employment growth of fishers also may be somewhat restrained by the growing number of large fishing vessels; the use of sophisticated electronic equipment for navigation, communication, and fish location; and improvements in fishing gear, which have greatly increased the efficiency of fishing operations and have limited the expansion in crew size. Likewise, the use of highly automated "floating processors," where the catch is processed aboard the vessel, may limit employment opportunities. Sport fishing boats will continue to provide some job opportunities.
Employment of hunters and trappers is also expected to decline. The U.S. Forest Service and State fish and wildlife agencies may provide some jobs. Some qualified hunters should be able to obtain positions as hunting guides or outfitters, although the work generally is seasonal. Trapping activities increasingly are becoming ancillary duties of wildlife scientists and technicians and related workers. Opportunities should be best for trappers in pest control activities.
Fishers, hunters, and trappers who worked full time in 1994 had median earnings of $508 a week. The middle 50 percent earned between $240 and $852 a week. The highest paid 10 percent earned over $1,891 a week, but the lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $198 a week.
Earnings of fishers, hunters, and trappers generally are highest in the summer and fallwhen demand for their services peaks and environmental conditions are favorableand lowest during the winter. Many full-time and most part-time workers supplement their income by working in other activities during the off-season. For example, fishers may work in seafood processing plants, establishments selling fishing and marine equipment, or in construction. Hunters may work as self-employed guides, for an outfitter, or in stores selling guns or hunting and related equipment. Trappers may work in stores selling trapping and related equipment.
Earnings of fishers vary widely depending upon the specific occupational function, the size of the ship, and the amount and value of the catch. The costs of the fishing operationoperating the ship, repair and maintenance of gear and equipment, and the crew's suppliesare deducted from the sale of the catch. The net proceeds are distributed among the crew members in accordance with a prearranged percentage. Generally, the ship's ownerusually its captainreceives half of the net proceeds, which covers any profit as well as the depreciation, maintenance, and replacement costs of the ship.
Numerous occupations involve outdoor activities similar to those of fishers, hunters, and trappers. Among these are zoo keepers, loggers, animal control officers, forest rangers, fishing guides, fish hatchery and aquaculture workers, game wardens, harbor pilots, merchant marine officers and seamen, and wildlife management specialists.
For general information about fishing occupations, contact:
National Fisheries Institute, 1525 Wilson Blvd., Suite 500, Arlington, VA 22209.
Information about sport or recreational fishing occupations is available from:
Sport Fishing Institute, 1010 Massachusetts Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20001.
Names of postsecondary schools offering fishing and related marine educational programs are available from:
Marine Technology Society, 1828 L St. NW., Suite 906, Washington, DC 20036-5104.
Information on licensing of captains and mates and requirements for merchant mariner documentation is available from the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Inspection Office or Marine Safety Office in your State, or:
Licensing and Evaluation Branch (G-MPV-2), U.S. Coast Guard, 2100 Second St. SW., Washington, DC 20593.
For information about certified training programs for diving (umbilical) careers, contact:
College of Oceaneering, 272 S. Fries Ave., Wilmington, CA 90744-6399.
Information on licensing of hunting guides is available from the department of fish and game in your State.
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