Many stories have been told about people who, with no trouble whatsoever, landed a job as a crew member in Alaska’s fishing industry on a highliner fishing boat and made tons of money. There are published materials for sale which boast of lucrative jobs in canneries and on fishing boats. The reality is, that for every success, there are many failures. A prospective crew member’s chance for a profitable season will be enhanced by careful assessment of job openings and close attention to details regarding any job offer.
During harvest seasons, prospective crew members must walk the fishing docks to follow up each word of mouth lead to speak with the skipper personally. The travel and waiting for such an opportunity can be costly, both physically and monetarily. Crew members rarely leave good jobs, so only a small percentage of hopefuls find their berth in this manner.
ADVISORY: Some of the reasons crew members leave should carry a warning to job seekers to proceed with caution. Commercial fishing is rated as one of the most hazardous occupations in America. Reputable boat operators rarely have serious mishaps, nor do they lose good crew members through misunderstandings. It is a good idea to find out why the departed crew member left. A vessel with numerous crew vacancies during the harvest season warrants investigation before new crew accept a job on it.
Minimum wage laws do not apply to crew member jobs in the industry. However, certain federal and state laws concerning hiring of persons under the age of 18 do apply.
Wages are often based on a share or percentage of harvest earnings. Newcomer deckhand earnings range from 1.5% to 10% of the adjusted gross catch, depending on location and type of fishery and the skills the worker possesses. Some vessels offer a daily rate from $50 to $100 instead of a percentage of the catch. Recent market conditions have caused some share rates to decline.
A crew member can be expected to purchase specialized apparel such as:
wet weather gear $100 per set
rubber boots $40 to $70 per pair
gloves $2 to $12 per pair
wrist covers or sleeves $5 per set
sleeping bag $70 to $200
The fishing vessel owner/operator should provide other specialized gear required by the Coast Guard, such as a survival suit. Make sure the vessel has a good safety reputation.
Crew members supply their own commercial fishing licenses. In 2000, commercial fishing license fees are $60 for a resident and $125 for a non-resident. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has a web site offering
crew license information and purchase: