Come Monday, Americans will get to celebrate Labor Day, a holiday that the U.S. Department of Labor says Congress created in 1894 to pay tribute to the economic and social achievements of U.S. workers. And who deserves to be recognized for their work more than our nation’s fishermen?
After all, fishing is one of our nation’s earliest industries, dating back some 400 years. Today, fishermen still go to sea and bring back a delicious and nutritious protein source, and the industry still makes a significant contribution to the country’s workforce.
For example, an Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute report entitled “The Economic Value of the Alaska Seafood Industry” released Wednesday reveals that the Alaska seafood industry alone provided a total of 165,800 jobs, including 34,000 jobs for Washington residents in 2011. The industry directly employed 63,100 workers in Alaska, the report notes, making it the state’s largest private sector employer.
Technological developments make fishing easier today than it was 400 years ago, but it remains hard, backbreaking and dangerous work. Thankfully, fishermen have advocates who have worked hard to improve fishing vessel safety and decrease mortalities, but fishing still remains a highly dangerous occupation.
According a recent Forbes article on the nation’s 10 deadliest jobs, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows fishing ranks as the nation’s second most dangerous occupation in 2012, second only to logging. In 2012, fishing-related professionals perished at a rate of 117 per 100,000 full-time workers. While 32 deaths were recorded last year, the total is fewer than in 2011, when 43 deaths occurred.
We can only hope that number continues to decline. Meanwhile, I raise a metaphorical glass to America’s fishermen, folks who are no strangers to putting in a long, hard day’s work.