Towards sustainable growth in Canada's fishing industry

September 6, 2018

Strategies to meet labour market challenges in the Canadian fish harvesting sector 

The Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH) has completed its Fisheries Labour Market Information Study, made possible through the support and participation of CCPFH member organizations, fish harvesters and other fishing community and Indigenous stakeholders, education and training institutions, and provincial government agencies. This project has been funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Initiative Program. 

The study objectives were: 

  • To analyze and report on current demographic and labour market trends and future outlooks for Canada’s fish harvesting labour force;
  • To identify and assess strategies to meet looming labour supply challenges and to manage the impending large-scale intergenerational transfer of fishing enterprises; and,
  • To identify and assess strategies to attract new labour supply for seasonal employment in fish harvesting and other rural-seasonal industries.

With the study completed, the CCPFH is now releasing the final project report. Some of the major findings, drawn from three years of research and consultations, are the following:  

1.    With expanding global demand for seafood products, the commercial fishing industry in Canada faces a bright future as a leading economic growth driver, outperforming other agrifood sectors in rates of increase in business revenues and value of exports. 

2.    With declining and aging populations in most coastal/rural regions, and 40% of the current fisheries labour force – both enterprise owner-operators and crew – now reaching retirement age, the most serious limitation on this economic growth potential will be critical shortages in skilled labour.

3.    The rapidly rising market value of fishing licenses and quotas is a barrier to intergenerational transfers and a serious constraint on attraction and retention of career-minded new entrants. This trend also threatens the Government of Canada’s renewed commitment to Owner-Operator and Fleet Separation Policies in Atlantic fisheries.

4.    Some 40% of Canadian fish harvesters work in other jobs to support themselves and their families during non-fishing seasons. Given looming labour shortages across rural economies, there are opportunities to encourage more such “occupational pluralism” to make employment in seasonal industries more attractive and rewarding.  

5.    Meeting these labour supply challenges will require extraordinary efforts, innovative approaches and expanded collaboration by and among employers, industry organizations, training institutions and government agencies. The report identifies and elaborates on three broad strategic directions:

  • Innovations in fleet structures and fisheries management policies and planning to improve enterprise viability, extend fishing seasons and enhance capacities to compete for new labour supply;
  • Concerted efforts to inform young people in rural regions and other potential new entrants (e.g., Indigenous youth, international immigrants, etc.) about expanding career opportunities in the fishing industry, to increase training and apprenticeship opportunities, and to improve access to capital for intergenerational transfers of fishing enterprises.
  • Innovations in education, training and labour market information programs, and in Employment Insurance policies, to facilitate occupational pluralism for fish harvesters in ways consistent with current licensing policies and professionalization standards. 

 “The CCPFH Labour Market Information Study is a major first step to address the serious human resources challenges we face across the sector”, said Jean Lanteigne, President of the CCPFH. “The Council is now well positioned to collaborate with industry, government, community and Indigenous partners to develop and implement labour force renewal strategies. We also want to convey our sincere gratitude to Employment and Social Development Canada for providing essential support to make this project possible.”

The full report, ancillary reports and appendices of the Labour Market Information Study are available for download here