A five year snapshot of trends in the numbers of boots on deck across Alaska shows that most fisheries have lost jobs since hitting a peak of 8,501 harvesters in 2015.

Fishing jobs then fell to around 8,000 for the next two years before dropping again in 2018 to about 7,600. In 2019, average monthly fishing employment was 7,653.

Overall, Alaska’s fishing sector was down 848 jobs over the five years from 2015 through 2019.

Those are just a few findings on harvesting jobs featured in the November edition of Alaska Economic Trends by the state Dept. of Labor.

For some species, employment bucked the downward trend. Shellfish employment had grown by 42 jobs since 2015, representing 23.4 percent growth in that relatively small sector.

Sablefish was the only other category to add jobs over five years by 22, settling in at a yearly average of 646 black cod fishing jobs.

For Alaska’s salmon fisheries, which represent the most workers on deck, despite small gains in 2019  they remain below the five year average of 4,472 jobs.

Halibut harvesting gained just three jobs last year for a total of 1,071 jobs.

Two fisheries lost jobs last year – herring and groundfish, which has dropped fishermen nearly every year since 2015.

Kodiak, for example, one of Alaska’s top groundfish ports, lost one-fifth of its harvester jobs over five years, due to reduced fishing of mostly cod.

By region, the Yukon Delta shed the largest share of fishing jobs due to poor salmon seasons. Last year’s 170 Yukon fishermen was down 55 percent from 2015.

Bristol Bay lost just 11 fishing jobs over five years.

Four regions – Southeast, Southcentral, Kodiak and the Aleutians – added jobs last year but haven’t regained their 2015 highs.

Harvester jobs are tricky to calculate because fishermen are considered self-employed. Economists infer jobs in a given month from fish landings. And because fishing permits are tied to specific gears and boat sizes, they can roughly estimate how many people are on the job averaged across a year.

The November Trends also features processing seafood in Alaska during a pandemic and deflation.

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