Thorough Analysis of Fishing Industry Labour Force Issues

November 24, 2014

Fish harvester at work

A major study is underway in rural coastal regions across Canada. The Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH) has embarked on a two and a half year study. It will document skill needs and labour supply challenges in coastal communities where seasonal fisheries are essential to the local economy.

“The seasonal nature and other attributes of the fisheries – often seen as a problem – can offer positive opportunities to share skilled workers among different sectors” says John Sutcliffe, Executive Director of the CCPFH. “The study will help create a strategy to match skill sets with job market opportunities and will focus on seasonality and labour market gaps.”

The fishing industry – harvesters, processors and suppliers -  is the largest private sector employer in Atlantic Canada. In British Columbia the fisheries is a significant employer in many rural coastal communities and aboriginal communities.  In recent years the fishery has faced serious challenges including shorter fishing seasons, rising costs, declining commodity prices and reduced resource availability. Given these factors, it is not surprising that worker retention and recruitment is becoming a problem.

“It becomes necessary to look at the fishing industry in the context of the Canadian economy as a whole and to investigate opportunities for integrating it in the wider Canadian labour market to help sustain the fishery workforce”, stated Mr. Sutcliffe.  “Opportunity lies in the seasonal nature of the fishery and in the transferable skills of those in the industry.  The fishery offers a large reservoir of formal and informal skills”.

The study will explore opportunities for the fishery workforce to use their current skills in other occupations during the non-fishing season and evaluate this as a strategy to address labour market supply and demand issues in the industry and in the wider economy. Opportunities for out-of-season employment for the fishing industry will be examined within fishing communities, in other marine sectors and in non-marine sectors throughout Canada.

“Our Government fully recognizes the importance of the fishing industry in many of Atlantic Canada’s rural and coastal communities. We are supporting this industry by opening new markets for our world-class fish and seafood products”, said the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. “We are also pleased to support industry-led initiatives, such as this study led by the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters. I am confident this will provide some valuable solutions to workforce issues faced by this sector.”

The project has four main objectives:

1)       To document labour supply and demand trends in the fish harvesting sector and the complex nature of seasonality in different regions and different parts of the industry

2)       To document fisheries workers’ skills and evaluate their suitability and adaptability for employment in other industries

3)       To assess labour supply and demand conditions in the fisheries sector and other industries -- locally, regionally and nationally.

4)       To develop a strategy and policy and program tools to expand access to employment for the fish industry workforce in the non-fishing seasons as a means to support recruitment and retention of a skilled workforce for the fisheries sector.

The final project report will present research findings, recommendations, a skills allocation model and case studies for the all the major fishing regions of Canada and for Aboriginal communities across the country.