Fishing jobs see decline in recent years

Jobs report from the Department of Labor shows post pandemic recovery in some areas
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 9:10 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The State of Alaska is seeing a decline in fishing jobs according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The publication of the November 2022 Alaska Economic Trends magazine shows the industry has seen a decrease in jobs since 2015.

There were an average of 8,501 jobs in fishing in 2015. Six years later, the state saw an average of 6,449 fishing jobs. The decline in fishing jobs has been most significant in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic restricted the industry. “A lot of declines we’ve seen are from production or closures,” said author Joshua Warren, who wrote the article on the loss of jobs in the fishing industry.

According to the article, the pandemic caused the largest drop in employment for fishing since data collection began. Those declines continued in 2021. However, the loss of jobs has impacted each region in a different way. “We had like three that gained employment, one that remained stable and three that dropped employment this last year,” said Warren.

The Yukon-Delta region has seen the biggest loss as Warren explained that it had seen a “collapse” of its fishery. The Northern region also took large losses in 2020, but made some recovery in 2021. Yet, the region still saw the second largest deficit in jobs. “The one area with the largest growth was Southeast. They went up 1.3%,” said Warren. The Aleutians and Probilof Islands also saw an increase in 2021 but, future reports are expected to show a decline due to a large loss of the crab population.

When analyzing the jobs by harvest species, groundfish such as Cod saw a large loss of jobs. This has been attributed to population declines caused by warming waters, the same culprit for the decimated crab populations in the Bering Sea. “Halibut at its peak had like 1,300 people working and now it’s down 888,” said Warren. However, in the last year Halibut did see a jobs increase. The number of jobs for crab fishing also went up but will likely see loses in the 2023 report and following reports.

On the other hand, Salmon saw one of the largest harvests since the mid-1970s, but the number of related jobs was down 1%. “It does not seem that poundage is like a direct correlation to the number of people who worked in fishing,” Warren said. Despite a proof of correlation, the data for the report is based off of landing records, or harvest totals.