Unless you’re actually in the industry, it might surprise you: When Pacific Marine Expo and National Fisherman surveyed the community in 2019, we found two captains in their 90s. The oldest was 94. About 5 percent of the crew members were in their 70s.

When people sign up for the fishing life, they often don’t look back. To call it a “career” is perhaps to undersell it. Commercial fishing can be a calling, a way of life, a family tradition.

It is, however, most certainly a career and one that many people spend their whole lives pursuing. And, just as with any career, there are stages that commercial fishermen generally work through, from their first days working the nets and lines and pots to their latter days captaining vessels that may have big crews and work multiple fisheries.

Here at Pacific Marine Expo and National Fisherman, we think it’s important to look at this career arc and think about each stage that a commercial fisherman may (or may not) go through as they age in the profession. What skills do they pick up? Where do they invest? With whom do they need to build relationships as they move through their career stages? How do they interact with various vendors and government agencies?

All of these questions and their answers play a role in making the industry hum and making sure that it thrives amidst constantly changing conditions, whether economic, environmental, or regulatory — and they are often intertwined.

Over the course of 10 chapters, we will examine these career stages and ladder steps as a way of informing both those who’d like to make a life on the water and those who’d hope to serve fisherman in various capacities.



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