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Fishers, trappers, and hunters.

Fishers, trappers, and hunters gather marine and animal life for people and domestic animals to eat, for industrial uses, and to manage wildlife. Most of these workers are in the commercial fishing industry.


The nature of a fisher's work depends somewhat on the kind of vessel they work on. Most full-time and virtually all parttime fishers work on motorboats under 5 tons in weight that ply relatively shallow waters and often stay in sight of land. Fishing hundreds of miles from shore is done from ships weighing hundreds or even thousands of tons that are able to haul a catch of tens of thousands of pounds of fish.

On smaller vessels operating near shore, crews are small-usually only one or two people who collaborate on all aspects of the fishing operation. Navigation and communication needs are modest, and there is little need for much electronic equipment or provisions for long stays at sea. Fishing methods include placing gill nets across the mouths of rivers or inlets, entrapment nets in bays and lakes, and pots and traps for shellfish such as lobsters and crabs. Dredges and scrapes are used to gather shellfish such as oysters and scallops. Depending upon the water's depth, divers, who wear a diving suit with an air line or a scuba outfit, use nets or spear guns to gather fish, shellfish, and other marine life such as coral and sponges. In very shallow waters, fish are caught from small boats with an outboard motor, from rowboats, orby wading.

Large vessels require a crew of up to 30 fishers, including a captain, or skipper, a first and sometimes a second mate, boatswains, and other deckhands. Boatswains are experienced deckhands with supervisory responsibilities.

The captain plans and oversees the fishing operation, determining the kind of marine life to be sought, the location of the best fishing grounds, the method of capture, and the duration of the trip. The captain ensures that the vessel is in suitable condition, oversees the purchase of supplies, hires crew members, and assigns them their duties. The captain plots and maintains the vessel's course with navigational aids, such as compasses, sextants, charts, autopilots, radar, and depth sounders. Radios and high frequency telephones are used to communicate with other ships and shore locations. The captain directs the fishing operation through the mates and other officers and records all 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 an auction and ensures that all the crew members receive their share of the profits.

The mate, the captain's assistant, assumes control of the vessel when the captain is off duty. The mate must be a skilled navigator who can operate all electronic equipment. Under the captain's oversight, the mate directs the work of the deckhands with the help of the boatswain.

Deckhands carry out the sailing and fishing operations, assuming any function on short notice. Prior to departure, they load equipment and supplies, either manually or with hoisting equipment. They operate the fishing gear, letting out and pulling in nets and lines. They extract the catch from the nets and take fish off hooks. Deckhands use dip nets to prevent the escape of small fish and gaffs to land large fish. The catch is washed, salted, iced, put in containers, and stowed away. In addition, deckhands are responsible for housekeeping; decks must be kept clear and clean. Deckhands repair and maintain the vessel's engines and equipment, including fishing gear. Upon returning to port, they secure the vessel's lines to the dock and to other vessels. Unless lumpers, or laborers, are hired, the deckhands unload the catch.

The crew usually includes deckhands who work at least part of the time as a cook or an engineer. The cook is often responsible for the procurement of food and cooking supplies and their loading on the vessel. The engineer repairs and maintains the vessel's engines and equipment to avoid returning to port for repairs. Other crew members may work as divers; they disentangle nets, pick up dropped propellers, and make underwater repairs.

Trappers and Hunters

Trappers catch animals or birds using baited, scented, or camouflaged traps, snares, cages, or nets. Many trappers prepare and sell pelts and skins. Many others capture animals to control damage, manage wildlife, check disease, or conduct research. Animal damage control and wildlife management may require the disposition or relocation of coyotes, bears, muskrats, beavers, or other animals. Rabid animals that threaten public or animal health are trapped to prevent the spread of the disease. Research activities include extracting teeth to determine the animal's age, drawing blood samples, and banding birds.

Hunters track, stalk,, and kill their quarry. They usually operate alone or as members of a very small party. They use guns and bows and arrows to hunt predatory animals such as bears, eradicate animal pests such as coyotes, and control the population of large game animals such as deer. They may use dogs to locate and corner the quarry. Alligator hunters shoot their quarry after snaring it with baited hooks. Hunters may skin animals and treat their pelts for marketing. A few hunters photograph or collect animals for museums.

Hunting is regulated by Federal, State, and local government agencies. American Indians on Indian reservations and native Alaskans may hunt unconditionally on their ownlands for their tribes' benefit.

Earnings and Working Conditions

Earnings of fishers, trappers, and hunters are generally highest in the summer, when demand for their services peaks and environmental conditions are ideal. Earnings are lowest during the winter. Many full-time workers 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. Trappers may work in stores selling trapping and related equipment. Hunters may work as self-employed guides, for an outfitter, or in stores selling guns or hunting 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 proceeds are distributed among the crew members in accordance with a prearranged formula. Generally, the ship's owner-usually its captain-receives half of the net proceeds. In 1989, the annual income of most captains ranged ftom $20,000 to $80,000. Mates on these vessels generally earned less than onehalf of this. Other crew members earn slightly less than mates. Earnings of fishers on motorboats are substantially lower, on the average, than those on large vessels.

Information about earnings of selfemployed trappers and hunters is not available. During 1989, most trappers and hunters in the Federal Government had starting salaries of between $16,600 and $21,000 a year. Salaries in State and local governments generally were lower.

Fishers, trappers, and hunters work under hazardous contidions. Often help is not readily available. Fishing vessels may be imperiled by sudden storms, fog, or wind. Malfunctioning navigation or communication equipment may lead to collisions or even shipwrecks. Defective fishing gear also poses a danger to the crew. Fishers must guard against becoming entangled in nets and gear, slipping on decks, and being swept overboard-a fearsome situation in stormy seas or at night. Divers must guard against entanglement of air lines, malfunction of scuba equipment, decompression problems, or attacks by predatory fish.

Trappers and hunters face numerous hazards, such as the unexpected assault of a predatory animal, falling branches and trees, slippery ground, thin ice on ponds, hidden roots and vines, and insect pests. Danger from incapacitating injuries is especially high, because these individuals usually work alone. A disabled vehicle or isolation because of a storm can also present serious problems.

These activities entail strenuous work and long hours. Fishing trips may require a stay of 2 weeks or more several hundred miles away from home port. The pace of work varies. It is intense while netting and hauling the catch aboard and relatively relaxed while traveling between home port and the fishing grounds. However, lookout watches-usually 6 hours on and 6 hours off-occur constantly, and crew members must stand watch at prearranged times of the day and night. Although fishing gear has improved and operations have become more mechanized, handling gear and processing fish is tough work. Fishers on newer vessels may enjoy improved living quarters and amenities such as television and shower stalls, but they still experience the aggravations of confined conditions, continuous personal contact, and the absence of family.

Trappers and hunters may have to carry, on foot, equipment and supplies through swamps, forests, and over rugged terrain. Long hours-dawn to dusk-often are the rule, and many spend several lonely days camped out in sparsely populated areas.

Employment and Outlook

According to one source, fishers, trappers, and hunters held at least 56,000 jobs in 1988, but the number may be much higher. Captains, mates, and deckhands on fishing vessels accounted for the bulk of the jobs. Trappers and, to a lesser extent hunters, accounted for the remaining jobs. Over half were self-employed. Many fishers, trappers, and hunters worked part time or offly part of the year, particularly in the summer when demand for these workers peaks.

The overwhelming majority of fishers, trappers, and hunters worked in the fishing, hunting, and trapping industry. Significant numbers of fishers are involved in sport fishing activities while others work for museums-primarily in aquariums, oceanariums, and marine museums. Small numbers are employed in many other industries.

Employment of fishers, trappers, and hunters is expected to increase through the year 2000. However, projected growth varies among these occupations.

Employment growth of captains and mates should be spurred by the expansion of commercial fishing from large vessels. Demand for skippers of sports fishing boats is expected to increase as recreational fishing activities continue to expand. In addition, fishing parties are increasingly using chartered boats with experienced crews to navigate and provide help with fishing.

Little growth is expected in several other fields. Employment growth of deckhands should be restrained by the use of sophisticated electronic equipment and improvements in fishing gear, which have greatly increased the efficiency of fishing operations. Little increase is expected in near-shore fishing operations, where the stock of fish is being adversely affected by overfishing and pollution. And limited growth is expected in the employment of trapperrs and hunters. In addition, trapping is increasingly becoming an ancillary duty of wildlife scientists and technicians rather than being pursued as an occupation in its own right.

Qualifications and Advancement

Fishers generally acquire their occupational skills through on-the-job experience, many as members of families involved in fishing activities. They must be in good health and possess physical strength and stamina. Coordination and mechanical aptitude are necessary to operate, maintain, and repair the ship's equipment and fishing gear. Fishers 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 and able to overcome the boredom of long watches.

No formal training requirements exist for entrance into fishing occupations although formal training may be useful for acquiring some of the knowledge needed to become licensed. Two-year vocational-technical programs are offered by some schools, primarily in coastal areas. The University of Rhode Island offers a bachelor's degree program in fishery technology which includes courses in seamanship, vessel operations, marine safety, navigation, vessel repair and maintenance, health emergencies, and fishing gear technology; the program also requires handson experience. Experienced fishers may find short-term workshops offered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and various postsecondary institutions useful, These programs provide a working knowledge of electronic equipment and the latest fishing gear.

Captains and mates on vessels of 200 or more gross tons must be licensed. Captains of sport fishing boats used for charter, regardless of size, must also be licensed. Crew members on fishing vessels of 100 or more tons may need a merchant mariner's document. These licenses and documents are issued by the U. S. Coast Guard to individuals who possess the necessary knowledge and meet the stipulated health and physical requirements.

Most fishers begin as deckhands. Experienced, reliable deckhands who display supervisory qualities may become boatswains. Boatswains may, in turn, become second mates, first mates, and finally captains. Mates must have supervisory ability and be able to assume any deckhand's duties or act for the captain when necessary. The captain must be highly experienced, mature, determined, decisive, and possess the necessary business skills. Almost all captains become self-employed, and the overwhelming majority eventually own or have an interest in one or more fishing ships. Some choose to run sport or recreational fishing operations, operate stores selling fishing and marine equipment and supplies, become selfemployed harbor pilots in cooperation with an established group of pilots, or work for trade associations or government agencies.

Deckhands whose experience and interest is in ship engineering-the maintenance and repair of ship engines and equipment-can become licensed chief engineers on large commercial vessels after meeting the Coast Guard's experience, physical, and academic requirements. Divers in fishing operations can enter commercial diving activityfor example, ship repair and pier and marina maintenance. Completion of a certified training program sponsored by an educational institution or industry association may be required for employment.

Most trappers and hunters are members of rural families for whom hunting and trapping have been a way of life for generations. They must be in good health, possess physical strength and stamina, and have the desire, patience, and ability to work outdoors 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 tracking equipment and to maintain camping and other gear.

Trappers undergo various forms of training. For those interested in the sale of animals and their skins or pelts, 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 and State Trappers Associations; in some States, completion of these programs is mandatory. A trapper's license, although not mandatory, 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 a degree program in wildlife biology, wildlife management, or related fields.

There is no formal training for hunters. Inexperienced individuals should 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.

Experienced trappers with the appropriate academic background may enter other occupations, such as wildlife technician, wildlife biologist, or wildlife refuge manager. Professional trappers with business skills and initiative may become self-employed fur trapperbuyers.

Hunters with extensive experience may work as guides for hunting parties. Those with initiative, business skills, and the required capital may become self-employed outfitters. Outfitters organize hunting parties, select hunting areas, and assume responsibility for the hunting expedition; they provide equipment and supplies, instruct the party members in safety and hunting techniques, and oversee leisure activities during the expedition.

Related Occupations

Numerous occupations involve activities similar to those of fishers, trappers, and hunters. Among these are animal caretaker, animal control officer, aquarist, fish caretaker, fish farmer, fish guide, fish hatchery worker, fish-net maker, fish warden, game warden, harbor pilot, hunting guide, outfitter, pest control officer, shellfish grower and bed worker, and wildlife management specialist.

Sources of Additional Information

For general information about fishing occupations, contact

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Public Affairs 1335 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Information about sport or recreational fishing occupations is available from

Sport Fishing Institute 1010 Massachusetts Avenue NW. Washington, DC 20001.

Names of postsecondary schools offering fishing and related marine educational programs are furnished by

Marine Technology Society Suite 203 1825 K Street NW. Washington, DC 20006.

Information on licensing of captains and mates and requirements for merchant mariners documentation is available from the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Inspection Office or Marine Safety Office in your State or

Merchant Vessel Personnel Division U.S. Coast Guard 2100 Second Street SW. Washington, DC 20593.

For information about certified training programs for umbilical diving careers, contact

College of Oceaneering International Diving School 272 South Fries Avenue Wilmington, CA 90744.

Information about certified training programs for scuba diving careers is available from

National Association of Underwater Instructors Diving Association P.O. Box 14650 Montclair, CA 91763.

For information on careers and Federal and State licensing requirements for harbor pilots, contact any one of the American Pilots Association's State Pilot Commissions or

American Pilots Association 1055 Thomas Jefferson Street NW. Washington, DC 20007.

For information on careers in hunting and related activities, contact

National Rifle Association Hunting Services Division 1600 Rhode Island Avenue NW. Washington, DC 20036.

Information on careers in trapping is available from

National Trappers Association P.O. Box 3667 Bloomington, IL 61702.
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Author:Gartagnis, Arthur
Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1989
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