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Fish that gives the job
Fishing is an ancient occupation of people, especially those living on the sea coasts.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in 2020, an estimated 58.5 million were engaged as full-time, part-time, occasional or unspecified workers in fisheries and aquaculture worldwide.

By sector, 35 percent were employed in aquaculture and 65 percent in fishing.

Asia is the undisputed leader with nearly 80 percent of the total number of 37.9 million fishermen, followed by Africa with 13 percent, the Americas with just over 5 percent (mostly accounted for by Latin America and the Caribbean), Oceania with just over 1 percent and Europe with just below 1 percent.

The current trends in the number of people engaged as fishermen or fish farmers vary by region. Europe and North America have experienced the largest proportional decreases in the number of both, particularly fishers.

Africa has experienced steady growth in the employment of fishers and fish farmers, most of which accounted for by fishing.

In Asia, engagement in both aquaculture and fisheries is declining for the first time in decades. For fishermen, the Chinese fleet reduction and the impact of COVID-19 have been strong drivers of this decline. Fisheries employment decreased 5.4 percent and aquaculture employment decreased 4.6 percent between 2015 and 2020.

Oceania also displays a decrease in employment, with the number of fishermen dropping while aquaculture workers remained steady between 2015 and 2020.

Interestingly, until 2015, employment in Europe was declining in fisheries and aquaculture; however, during 2015–2020 there was 3 percent growth in fisheries and 5 percent growth in aquaculture.

Speaking about the role of fisheries in providing jobs, one cannot fail to mention small-scale fishing. According to FAO, more than 110 million workers earn their livelihood in this sector, and fishing is often the only way for them to make money. It can be said that life forces them to fish, because there is no way to find another job. However, it is more about the life than fishing itself.
Fish that gives the job
Labour shortages and crewing fears

This does not apply to industrial fishing in developed and developing countries, where people often have other opportunities to get livelihood, and shortages of workers willing to work on fishing vessels are a serious challenge.
A good example in this sense is Norway, where fishing has been an important industry along the Norwegian coast for centuries in terms of income and employment. The majority of experts in the Norwegian fisheries consider recruitment of fishermen to be the main future challenge for the Norwegian fishing fleet.

Presently, there is a general consensus that there is a fleet recruitment problem, but there is no consensus on what caused it. Some argue that recruitment problems are due to low fleet profitability and low wages, while others believe that restructuring policies, increased quota tradeability and higher cost of entry have led to recruiting problems.

The problem of labour shortage in fisheries is relevant beyond Norway. As in Norway, fisheries across Europe have undergone major structural changes and restructuring with heavy fleet reductions, leading to social consequences for both fishermen and fishing communities.

In particular, the social, economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries has been threatened, which has negatively affected the sector’s attractiveness for the labour force.

The impact is supported by recent studies reflecting the difficulty in recruiting new generations of fishermen in many of the North Atlantic fisheries. For example, the Fishingnews website quoted the Seafish Employment in the UK Fishing Fleet report for 2021 saying that 13% of respondents believed issues with recruiting crew would negatively affect their future performance.

According to the report, shipowners faced “difficulties in finding reliable and/or local crew, and financial struggles, meaning they couldn’t afford to pay an extra crew member”. Meanwhile, owners who employed foreign crew said that Covid-19 restrictions had made it difficult for workers to travel to and from the UK.

To relax pressure from a labor shortage in the UK fishing fleet, the government recently announced its intention to ease immigration rules for jobs in the fishing industry, making it cheaper and easier for overseas applicants to obtain a visa.

Recruitment issues raise concerns about the future sustainability of the fishing industry worldwide.

Although each fishing nation is different, there is much in common when it comes to staffing the fishing fleet.

Industry watchers refer often to the income insecurity of fishing activity, which caused a lack of interest among young people in fishing.

They also highlight the need to improve working conditions, health and safety, training, social inclusion and a fair standard of living to make fishing attractive, especially to the young generation.

How seafood shows can boost employment

Given the complexity of the issue, more information is clearly needed on the employment of fishermen, particularly on large-sized fishing vessels amid the ongoing reduction of the global fishing fleet capacity.

More research is also in need on how fishermen are recruited, their working conditions and patterns of exploitation and abuse.

Finally, there should be wider discussion of the fishing fleet staffing issues, including at the sites of major international fisheries exhibitions.

Seafood Expo Eurasia is a new international fishery event that will bring together fishery industrialists and decision makers from around the world to discuss topical issues in global fisheries, including employment in the fishing industry.

Participants of Seafood Expo Eurasia will be able to find not only new clients, but also new employees, because by exhibiting with a stand, you get a chance to make a good impression on a potential employer.
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