Deep-sea fishery worker

Deep-sea fishery workers on a vessel


Deep-sea fishery workers operate on board fishing vessels to catch deep-sea fish for sale or delivery. They use equipment such as rods and nets to catch deep-sea fish according to legislation. Deep-sea fishery workers also transport, handle and preserve fish by salting, icing or freezing them.

Deep-sea fishery workers typically do the following:

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

Working conditions

Fishing operations are conducted under various environmental conditions, depending on the geographic region, body of water, and kinds of animals sought. Storms, fog, and wind may hamper fishing vessels or cause them to suspend fishing operations and return to port.

Although fishing gear has improved and operations have become more mechanized, netting and processing fish are nonetheless strenuous activities. Newer vessels have improved living quarters and amenities, but crews still experience the aggravations of confined quarters and the absence of family.

Injuries and Illnesses

Commercial fishing can be dangerous and can lead to workplace injuries or fatalities. Deep-sea fishery workers often work under hazardous conditions. Transportation to a hospital or doctor is often not readily available for these workers because they can be out at sea or in a remote area.

And although fatalities are uncommon, deep-sea fishery workers experience one of the highest rates of occupational fatalities of all occupations.

Most fatalities that happen to deep-sea fishery workers are from drowning. The crew must guard against the danger of injury from malfunctioning fishing gear, entanglement in fishing nets and gear, slippery decks, ice formation, or large waves washing over the deck. Malfunctioning navigation and communication equipment and other factors may lead to collisions, shipwrecks, or other dangerous situations, such as vessels becoming caught in storms.

Work Schedules

Deep-sea fishery workers often endure long shifts and irregular work schedules. Commercial fishing trips may require workers to be away from their home port for several weeks or months.

Many fishers are seasonal workers, and those jobs are usually filled by students and by people from other occupations who are available for seasonal work, such as teachers. For example, employment of fishers in Alaska increases significantly during the summer months, which constitute the salmon season. During these times, fishers can expect to work long hours.

Minimum qualifications

No formal educational credential is generally required to work as a deep-sea fishery worker. Fishers usually learn on the job.

Deep-sea fishery workers need a permit delivered by local authorities to fish in almost any water. The permits specify the fishing season, the type and amount of fish that may be caught, and, sometimes, the type of permissible fishing gear.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Deep-sea fishery worker is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Deep-sea fishery worker career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to deep-sea fishery worker.

fishing net maker
fisheries deckhand
fisheries assistant engineer

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of deep-sea fishery worker. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of deep-sea fishery worker with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

fisheries observer
fisheries refrigeration engineer
deck officer
ship captain
marine chief engineer

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of deep-sea fishery worker.

  • Physical parts of the vessel: Detailed knowledge of the different physical components of the vessel. Provide maintenance and care to ensure optimal operations.
  • Functions of vessel deck equipment: Know and control deck and safety equipment and vessel lifting facilities.
  • International regulations for preventing collisions at sea: Fundamental aspects of the international regulations to prevent collisions at sea, such as the conduct of vessels in sight of one another, navigation lights and markers, major light and acoustic signals, maritime signalling and buoys.
  • Fishing gear: Identification of the different gear used in capture fisheries and their functional capacity.
  • Code of conduct for responsible fisheries: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the guidelines established for professional fishers.
  • Deterioration of fish products: Process of decomposition and spoilage of fish products: physical, enzymatic, microbiological and chemical processes occurring after harvesting.
  • Vessel safety equipment: Gain theoretical and practical knowledge of safety equipment used in vessels, including devices such as lifeboats, life rings, splash doors and fire doors, sprinkler systems, etc. Operate equipment during emergency situations.
  • Fisheries legislation: The study and analysis of different fisheries management approaches taking into account international treaties and industry norms in order to analyze fisheries management regulations.
  • Risks associated with undertaking fishing operations: General risks occurring when working on fishing boats and specific risks occurring only in some fishing modalities. Prevention of threats and accidents.
  • Quality of fish products: Factors affecting the quality of fish products. For instance, differences between species, impact of the fishing gears and parasite influence on the preservation of quality.
  • Health and safety regulations: Necessary health, safety, hygiene and environmental standards and legislation rules in the sector of particular activity.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of deep-sea fishery worker.

  • Follow hygienic practices in fishery operations: Comply with the right regulations and practices for hygienically handling fishery related tasks and responsibilities in fishery operations.
  • Work in outdoor conditions: Can cope with the different climate conditions such as heat, rain, cold or in strong wind.
  • Operate fishing equipment machinery: Set up and operate machinery to form fishing equipment or accessories such as rods, hooks and lines.
  • Preserve fish products: Place and classify fish products for proper conservation. Maintain suitable conditions for the conservation of fishery products.
  • Assist emergency services: Assist the police and emergency services where needed.
  • Use fishing vessel equipment: Dispose fishing gear and ship’s deck for successful extraction activities as directed by the superior. Run shooting and hauling gear operations for its optimal performance.
  • Operate fish capture equipment: Operate fish capture equipment, for grading, sampling or harvesting purposes.
  • Assist anchoring operations: Assist during anchoring operations; operate equipment and assist in anchor manoeuvres.
  • Operate ship equipment: Operate ship equipment such as engines and generators, winches, and HVAC systems. Assume responsibility for all exterior equipment, as well as some interior. Ensure that deck equipment is operated safely.
  • Handle fish products: Handle fish with care and hygiene required to maintain quality. Adequately prepare fish products for storage.
  • Assist in ship maintenance: Contribute to shipboard maintenance and repair using painting, lubrication and cleaning materials and equipment. Execute routine maintenance and repair procedures. Dispose safely waste materials. Apply, maintain and use hand and power tools.
  • Maintain safe navigation watches: Observe principles in keeping a navigation watch. Take over, accept and pass on a watch. Steer the vessel and perform routine duties undertaken during a watch. Observe safety and emergency procedures. Observe safety precautions during a watch and take immediate actions in the event of fire or accident.
  • Support vessel manoeuvres: Participate in manoeuvres at port: berthing, anchoring and other mooring operations. Contribute to a safe navigational watch.
  • Swim: Move through water by means of the limbs.
  • Follow verbal instructions: Have the ability to follow spoken instructions received from colleagues. Strive to understand and clarify what is being requested.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of deep-sea fishery worker. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Fisheries management: The principles, methods and equipment used in population management applied to fisheries: the concept of catch, by-catch, fishing effort, maximum sustainable yield, different sampling methods and how to use sampling material.
  • Radars: Systems that can use radio waves or microwaves to capture the speed, direction, range, and altitude of objects. It can be used for the detection of aeroplanes, ships, and weather formations.
  • International convention for the prevention of pollution from ships: The fundamental principals and requirements laid in the International Regulation for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL): Regulations for the Prevention of Pollution by Oil, Regulations for the Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk, prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form, Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships, Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships, Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships.
  • Fish anatomy: The study of the form or morphology of fish species.
  • Fire-fighting systems: The devices and systems used to extinguish fires; the classes and chemistry of fire.
  • Global maritime distress and safety system: The internationally agreed-upon set of safety procedures, types of equipment and communication protocols used to increase safety and make it easier to rescue distressed ships, boats and aircraft.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of deep-sea fishery worker. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Use radar navigation: Operate modern radar navigation equipment to ensure safe vessel operations.
  • Collect weather-related data: Gather data from satellites, radars, remote sensors, and weather stations in order to obtain information about weather conditions and phenomena.
  • Coordinate the ship crew: Coordinate the daily activities of the crew. Ensure that each member of the deck department understands and performs his/her assigned duties adequately. Assist the captain with training and orientation of new crew. Coordinate line-handling during manoeuvres. Monitor deck maintenance and safety. Plan each day’s work to achieve the most from each deck crewmember.
  • Operate traditional water depth measurement equipment: Operate traditional water depth measuring equipment e.g. weights on a line, and traditional techniques for measuring the depth of water, particularly along coastlines and near harbours.
  • Sell fish and seafood: Sell fish and varieties of seafood, according to the product’s availability in the store.
  • Manage engine-room resources: Allocate, assign, and prioritise engine-room resources. Communicate effectively, showing assertiveness and leadership. Obtain and maintain situational awareness, considering of team experience.
  • Extinguish fires: Choose the adequate substances and methods to extinguish fires depending on their size, such as water and various chemical agents. Use a breathing apparatus.
  • Prepare lifeboats: Prepare lifeboats in ships before departure, ensure full functionality in case of emergency, follow regulatory instructions for lifesaving boats.
  • Prepare deck equipment: Handle a wide assortment of deck equipment, including waterproof marine doors, hatches, winches, pumps, cleats, fairleads, portlights, shackles, swivels, tank top covers, anchors, and bollards. Prepare and organise equipment in the required locations and quantity on board a vessel.
  • Wash decks of ships: Clean the ship’s deck by sweeping and washing it thoroughly. Remove superfluous salt and water to avoid oxidation.
  • Communicate using the global maritime distress and safety system: Send an alert in case of distress, using any of the various GMDSS radio systems such that the alert has a very high probability of being received by either shore rescue authorities and/or other vessels in the area.
  • Maintain ship logs: Maintain written records of events and activities on a ship
  • Survive at sea in the event of ship abandonment: Identify muster signals and what emergencies they signal. Comply with established procedures. Don and use a lifejacket or an immersion suit. Safely jump into the water from a height. Swim and right an inverted liferaft while wearing a swim while wearing a lifejacket. Keep afloat without a lifejacket. Board a survival craft from the ship, or from the water while wearing a lifejacket. Take initial actions on boarding survival craft to enhance chance of survival. Stream a drogue or sea-anchor. Operate survival craft equipment. Operate location devices, including radio equipment.
  • Operate fish processing equipment: Operate equipment for canning, drying, freezing, smoking, high pressure processing of fish, or other types of processing of fish following established procedures.
  • Operate echo sounding equipment: Operate technological equipment to measure the ocean’s depth. Calculate and interpret results, and communicate them to management.
  • Remove parts of fish: Remove guts, heads and tails for fish and seafood production.
  • Secure ships using rope: Use rope to secure and untie the ship before departure or upon arrival.
  • Conduct on board safety inspections: Conduct on board safety inspections; identify and remove potential threats to the physical integrity of the ship crew.
  • Report to captain: Perform the full array of responsibilities and tasks for the deckhand, and report information regarding this orally to the master of the vessel and or the mate in the other person’s absence.
  • Use maritime English: Communicate in English employing language used in actual situations on board ships, in ports and elsewhere in the shipping chain.
  • Analyse weather forecast: Analyse weather forecasts and the information provided on meteorological conditions, such as wind forces, atmospheric structures, clouds, and visibility. Provide analyses depending on the requirements of various different industries and service providers.
  • Support fishery training procedures: Support colleagues progress in their line of work by increasing their job specific know-how.
  • Handle cargo: Manage safely the mechanical elements in the loading and unloading of cargo and stores. Stowing and unstowing of products following instructions.
  • Unmoor vessels: Follow standard procedures to unmoor vessels. Manage communication between the ship and the shore.
  • Assist in maritime rescue operations: Provide assistance during maritime rescue operations.
  • Wash gutted fish: Wash gutted fish in cold water, rinse it, brush it in a machine, or apply a combination of these techniques.
  • Maintain vessel safety and emergency equipment: Maintain and inspect all safety and emergency equipment such as life jackets, inflatable life rafts, flares, EPIRB, first-aid kits, AED, skiff emergency packs, emergency flashlights, and hand-held radios. Ensure that safety equipment is organised, available for emergency use, and re-stocked as necessary. Record inspection of the equipment in appropriate logbooks.
  • Operate ship rescue machinery: Operate rescue boats and survival craft. Launch the boats as required and operate their equipment. Take care of survivors and survival craft after abandoning ship. Use electronic devices to track and communicate location, including communications and signalling apparatus and pyrotechnics.

ISCO group and title

6223 – Deep-sea fishery workers

  1. Deep-sea fishery worker – ESCO
  2. Fishing and Hunting Workers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Featured image: Photo by Paul Einerhand on Unsplash
Last updated on October 25, 2022

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