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Know more about the commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico states

By: Ben Posadas / Published: Jan 18,  2018

Most valued commercial species  

Commercial fishing comprises establishments primarily engaged in the commercial catching or taking of finfish, shellfish, or miscellaneous marine products from a natural habitat (U.S. Bureau of Census).During the past seven years, the Gulf States landed an average 1.5 billion pounds of commercially harvestable fish and shellfish species representing about 15 percent of the total U.S. landings. The dockside values of commercial landings in the Gulf States averaged $890 million per year (at constant 2016 prices) since 2010 representing 16 percent of the overall domestic landing values.

Figure 1 lists the top 10 most valued species commercially landed in the Gulf of Mexico States are shrimp, menhaden, oyster, crabs, spiny lobster, red snapper and red grouper.

Figure 1. Top 10 Most Valued Species Commercially Harvested in the Gulf of Mexico States Exceeding $18 Million in 2016. Source of raw data: NOAA Fisheries. http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/commercial-fisheries/index. Last accessed: Jan. 10, 2018.
Figure 1. Top 10 Most Valued Species Commercially Harvested in the Gulf of Mexico States Exceeding $18 Million in 2016. Source of raw data: NOAA Fisheries. http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/commercial-fisheries/index. Last accessed: Jan. 10, 2018.

Commercial fishing employment and wages, salaries and earnings

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, fishers and related fishing workers typically do the following tasks:

  1. Locate fish with the use of fish-finding equipment
  2. Direct fishing operations and supervise the crew of fishing vessels
  3. Steer vessels and operate navigational instruments
  4. Maintain engines, fishing gear and other onboard equipment by making minor repairs
  5. Sort, pack and store the catch in holds with ice and other freezing methods
  6. Measure fish to ensure that they are of legal size
  7. Return undesirable or illegal catches to the water
  8. Guide nets, traps and lines onto vessels by hand or with hoisting equipment
  9. Signal other workers to move, hoist, and position loads of the catch

The commercial fishing industry directly provided about 23,400 jobs per year in the five Gulf of Mexico States (AL, FL, LA, MS and TX) representing about 28 percent of the total U.S. fishing jobs. As shown in Figure 2, the number of jobs in the Gulf States ranged from 20,000 to 29,000 during the past 16 years. 

Figure 2. Annual Employment and Wages, Salaries, and Earnings of Commercial Fishing QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed, and Extended Proprietors. QCEW – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
Figure 2. Annual Employment and Wages, Salaries, and Earnings of Commercial Fishing QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed, and Extended Proprietors. QCEW – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

The combined wages, salaries and proprietor earnings (at constant 2016 prices) of all the QCEW employees, non-QCEW employees, self-employed and extended proprietors averaged about $27,600 per person during the past 16 years (Figure 2). The annual pay of fishers and owners of fishing businesses in the five Gulf of Mexico States was about 82 percent of the national average.

The average productivity of commercial fishers and owners in the Gulf States as compared to the average wages and earnings since 2001 are shown in Figure 3. The gross margin above fishing  wages and earnings averaged about $10,000 per worker (at constant 2016 prices) since 2001. The values of gross margins are essential indicators of the economic viability of commercial fishing since they are used to cover boat and fishing trip expenses. The three years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (2010-2012) showed negligible or negative gross margins. During the past seven years, the average gross margin in the Gulf States was about 53 percent of the national average. 

Figure 3. Average Productivity and Wages, Salaries, and Earnings of Commercial Fishers and Owners in the Gulf of Mexico States.
Figure 3. Average Productivity and Wages, Salaries, and Earnings of Commercial Fishers and Owners in the Gulf of Mexico States.

Distribution of commercial fishermen by gender

The recent industrial overview released by EMSI showed that among fishers and owners in the Gulf States, approximately 93.9 percent were males (Figure 4). About 6.1 percent of the fishing workers and boat owners were females.

Figure 4. Distribution of Commercial Fishing QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed, and Extended Proprietors by Gender. QCEW – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
Figure 4. Distribution of Commercial Fishing QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed, and Extended Proprietors by Gender. QCEW – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

Distribution of commercial fishermen by race or ethnicity

The latest industrial overview disseminated by EMSI also categorized the fishers and owners in the Gulf States by race or ethnicity (Figure 5). Majority of the workers are Whites (79.2 percent), followed by Asians (10.8 percent) and Hispanic Latino (7.3 percent). The rest are African Americans (1.5 percent), Native Americans or Alaska Native (0.9 percent), with two or more races (0.3 percent), and Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islander (0.0 percent). 


Figure 5. Distribution of Commercial Fishing QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed, and Extended Proprietors by Race or Ethnicity. QCEW – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
Figure 5. Distribution of Commercial Fishing QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed, and Extended Proprietors by Race or Ethnicity. QCEW – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

Distribution of Commercial Fishermen by Age

The most recent industrial overview published by EMSI also classified the fishers and owners in the Gulf States by age (Figure 6). Almost 4 out of 10 of the fishermen and owners are 55 years old and above. The 45-55 years old fishers and owners consisted of 28.2 percent of the total. The 35-44 years old group added 19.4 percent of the total. The younger fishermen and owners comprised 13.6 percent of the fishers and owners. 

Figure 6. Distribution of Commercial Fishing QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed, and Extended Proprietors by Age. QCEW – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
Figure 6. Distribution of Commercial Fishing QCEW Employees, Non-QCEW Employees, Self-Employed, and Extended Proprietors by Age. QCEW – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

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