Fishermen/women/Skippers are part of a fishing vessel's crew, travelling out to sea in order to catch fish. Their working environment is tough and potentially dangerous.
Vessels range in size from single-handed boats to large factory ships crewed by as many as 20 people. A typical boat has a crew of three to six hands.
Large modern vessels use advanced electronic systems to navigate, locate fish and monitor the storage conditions of the catch. Modern equipment also reduces the need to lift and shovel the fish.
Fishermen/women working as deckhands are likely to:
Depending on the size of the vessel, tasks may also include:
Fishermen/women may also be expected to develop skills such as net making and splicing rope. With experience they may also learn to use some of the electronic equipment on board.
A ship's mate may have additional responsibilities, including reading charts and navigating, radio communications, using more advanced equipment and deputising for the skipper.
A skipper is in overall command of the boat. Skippers are responsible for all aspects of health and safety, and crew and vessel management. This may include:
Fishermen/women earn money only when they are at sea catching fish, so this role can involve working long hours.
The exact amount of time spent at sea depends on the type of vessel. Inshore fishing involves small boats fishing close to the shore and usually going out to sea each day. Large freezer ships can go to more distant fishing grounds and may be away for as long as two months at a time. For all vessels, time is also spent ashore maintaining nets and repairing the vessel.
The standard of accommodation and amenities on board depends on the boat's age, with many new boats built to a good standard of comfort below deck. Generally, facilities on board are usually basic and conditions are cramped.
Fishermen/women work out in the open for much of the time, although most boats now have shelter decks. They have to work in all types of weather. The work is very physically demanding and includes lifting and carrying, especially on smaller vessels which use more manual systems.
Starting salaries for trainee deckhands may be around £10,000 a year.
Fishing takes place all along the UK coast but the fishing industry is largely based around the Scottish islands, the east coast of Scotland, and the east and south-west coasts of England.
There are currently around 12,000 fishermen/women in the UK. Although these figures have slightly decreased in recent years, there are more vacancies than applicants.
Employers range from large companies to small family businesses with just one or two people. There are around 7,000 registered fishing vessels of different types and sizes. They include inshore fishing boats, trawlers, netters, crabbers and factory ships.
A key issue for the fishing industry is sustainability. The challenge is to protect the livelihood of fishermen/women while at the same time conserving fish stocks and promoting best environment practice.
No set qualifications are needed to start as a trainee deckhand, but entrants need to be physically fit, with good hearing and eyesight.
Most people enter through one of 15 Catching Sector Group Training Associations (GTAs) in the UK. Contact The Sea Fish Industry Authority to find the nearest GTA.
All new entrants to the fishing industry must take four one-day safety training courses run by the GTA, which may be free of charge. These courses cover:
- Sea survival
- First aid
- Fire fighting
- Basic health and safety.
Apprenticeships can lead to an NVQ/SVQ in Marine Vessel Support (Deckhand) at Level 2. NVQ's/SVQ's in Marine Vessel Operations (Fishing) or Marine Engineering Operations at Level 3 are also available. The courses involve some college work but most of the time is spent at sea gaining practical experience. Successful apprentices can then take the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) oral exams that lead to the MCA Certificate of Competency.
With experience, it is possible to progress to NVQ's/SVQ's in Marine Vessel Operations or Marine Engineering Operations at Level 4.
Short courses are also available in navigation, engineering and fishing vessel stability.
Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.
Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
A fisherman/woman needs to:
In addition to these, a skipper needs:
There is a set career path within the fishing industry and fishermen/women can follow either the deck route or the engineering route.
Deck Route - an experienced deckhand can progress with further training to ship's mate and eventually skipper.
Engineering Route - an entrant starts as an engineer watch-keeper and progresses to second engineer, operating and maintaining all the ship's mechanical and electrical equipment. Further promotion is to chief engineer, overseeing all engineering work, monitoring instruments and dealing with any engineering emergencies.
With the right qualifications and experience, they may also be able to work on foreign fishing vessels.
It may also be possible to move into areas such as the Merchant Navy, vessel support, fish farming, harbour tug work, ferries or oil and gas exploration.
Self-employment is common. Some fishermen/women buy a small fishing vessel, either on their own or in partnership with other experienced people. This may involve investing a large amount of money.
Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA),
Seafarer Training and Certification Branch,
Spring Place, 105 Commercial Road,
Southampton SO15 1EG
Tel: 023 8032 9231
National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO),
30 Monkgate, York, YO31 7PF
Tel: 01904 635432
Scottish Fishermen's Federation,
24 Rubislaw Terrace, Aberdeen AB10 1XE
Tel: 01224 646944
The Sea Fish Industry Authority,
St Andrew's Dock, Hull HU3 4QE
Tel: 01482 327 837
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.