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What Are the Different Types of Alaskan Fisherman Jobs?

By K. Kinsella
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The state of Alaska is the largest of the 50 states that make up the United States, and due to its lengthy coastline, Alaskan fisherman jobs are not in short supply. Traditional fishermen use fishing rods and nets and operate near the coastline in small vessels. Other people find Alaskan fisherman jobs that involve working as captains, deckhands, or engineers on large commercial trawlers. The Bering Sea produces a harvest of different marine life throughout the course of the year, and local fishermen typically focus on catching either fish or crabs.

Many people with Alaskan fisherman jobs work for small locally owned family run firms. These businesses operate small near-shore vessels that have crews of between one and six people. The fishermen on these boats use nets and hooks to catch herring and salmon during the summer months. Each boat has a licensed captain who navigates the vessel and decides where to cast the nest. The fishing season lasts for only a few months, so most of the fishermen hold other jobs during the remainder of the year.

Large numbers of Alaskan fisherman jobs are found on offshore vessels that head into deeper waters hundreds of kilometers off the Alaskan coast. As with the smaller vessels, each boat has a captain who must navigate the boat and use sonar and satellite technology to judge the weather and locate the areas with the most abundant stocks of marine life. Deck hands drop metal crates called pots into the ocean and then use on-deck winches to haul the pots back onto the deck. Fishermen on larger vessels typically look for various types of shellfish or whitefish.

On major vessels, a deck boss oversees the crew's activities. The deck boss usually controls the winch and supervises the unloading of the pots. Fishermen can face fines for catching crab and other types of sea life that have not yet reached maturity, so the deck boss has to ensure that the crew cast smaller fish and crabs back into the ocean. An engineer ensures that the boat's engine and winch remain operative, and at least one fisherman on each boat has to double as a first aid officer.

Alaskan fishermen do not receive a base salary, and instead they earn a share of the sales revenue from the marine life that they catch. The ship's captain and deck boss earn a higher share of the money that the other crewmembers. Deck hands often earn a 10 percent share of the sales revenue, but first-year deck hands earn as little as 1 percent.

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