Opportunities in the Fish-Processing Industry The Buzz


Certain fish stocks are diminishing. This has reduced fish catches significantly. Plus, more of the work in the industry is being automated. Job opportunities in fish processing are shifting.

The fishing industry has been the livelihood of many coastal cities across North America. But when fewer fish are caught, coastal communities and processing companies everywhere feel the changes.

"The fish-processing industry generally follows fish landings [catches]," says Daniel Georgianna. He is an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts.

So how does the industry stay afloat? Businesses are becoming more creative and resourceful to attract customers, explains Georgianna. Processors are importing more and carrying a wider range of products. He also adds that consumers' tastes are changing and businesses are selling more high-value products like lobster and crab.

Also, more value-added products are being produced. That means that more labor or processing is needed to make the products.

Kathy Porter is the deputy executive director of a seafood industry council. She says the trend over the past 10 years has been away from a primarily wild harvest to a primarily farmed harvest.

"However, the wild industry is starting to come back. Over the past 20 years, an additional 50 or so species are now given harvesting quotas. This has meant the primary processing industry has had to make rapid changes in technology in order to process these diverse species," she says.

"The job trends indicate a workforce skilled in a variety of tasks will be at the forefront of the industry."

Here are just some of the tasks that fish processors may do, according to the Alaska Department of Labor (ADL):

  • Clean and pack fish eggs
  • Butcher fish for marketing or further processing
  • Clean fish and prepare for canning, freezing or smoking
  • Butcher live crab, prepare shellfish
  • Weigh and record weights; sort; pack fish in jars, cans, boxes or containers of crushed ice
  • Feed cans and lids into lidding machine

Most production jobs require little training. If you want to be a manager, you'll probably need a college education or lots of experience.

Automation has had little effect on hand workers. But it is having a broader impact on other occupations within the industry. Employment has fallen among machine operators, but increased for industrial machinery mechanics who repair and maintain the machines.

Computers are also being incorporated into the food-processing industry. This has reduced employment among some mid-level managers and administrative support workers. But it has increased demand for workers with technical skills.

As in the past, the industry will typically slope up and down, depending on fish landings. But as long as there is a consumer demand for fish sticks and crab cakes, opportunities will remain in the fish-processing industry.

Links

National Marine Fisheries Service
Catch stats and the fisheries outlook

Alaska Department of Labor
Seafood processing jobs in Alaska