Petersburg, Alaska is showcased in Alaska Economic Trends by the Dept. of Labor Photo credit: Wikiwand.com
The Covid pandemic last year caused a more than 14 percent drop in Alaska fishing jobs since the state started tracking the numbers in 2000.
Employment decreased from a monthly average of 7,654 in 2019 to 6,575 last year with declines across almost all months and in all fisheries.
That’s according to November’s Alaska Economic Trends by the state Department of Labor.
Over the year, statewide salmon harvesting lost about 700 jobs on an average monthly basis, with a drop of over 3,000 in August alone, typically the yearly peak.
Southeast Alaska, which is the state’s largest region in terms of monthly fishing employment, took the biggest hit, losing 16% of its harvesting jobs and hitting its lowest fishing employment level in 20 years.
All but one of Kodiak’s seven fisheries lost jobs in 2020, dropping from 657 to 541, a decline of almost 18 percent, making it a 20-year low.
Fishermen at the Aleutians and Pribilof Islands also catch a range of species, and only one of the six fisheries — crab — saw job growth last year. Crab harvesting jobs grew 22 percent, largely because 41 percent of its employment is from January through March, missing Covid’s most active months.
Tracking fishing jobs is tricky because harvesters are self-employed and permit holders are not required to report how many crew they hire. The jobs are inferred in a given month from landings. Because fishing permits are associated with a specific type of gear, including boat size, economists estimate how many people the landings require for a given fishery.
The number of people associated with a certain permit is called the crew factor. For example, a permit to fish for Bristol Bay red king crab with pot gear on a vessel more than 60 feet long requires about six people, according to a survey of those permit holders. So when crab is landed under that permit, the Dept. of Labor assumes the permit generated six jobs.
The number of fishing jobs for this year show signs of improvement, the report says and most operations have run more smoothly. It added that long-term risks like stock declines and climate change may impact future employment.
The Trends report also showcases the port of Petersburg.