Lobster industry needs workers for boats

Steve Sharratt
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Boats laden with lobster traps leave Covehead Harbour on the north shore of P.E.I at dawn on Friday May 8, 2015, for the opening of the season. The P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association says there is a shortage of second-men or corks to work on the boats, so it plans to join forces with Holland College to help attract students to a unique summer job.

If you like watching the sun rise, sailing on the open water and feeling the wind in your hair, then you could be the perfect candidate.

The P.E.I. lobster industry is desperately looking for labour to work onboard boats, referred to in the industry as second-men or corks.

“It’s estimated that we will have quite a shortage in the coming years, and so we’re trying to find ways to remedy that,’’ said Ian MacPherson of the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association. “We’re running out of back-of-the-boat people.”

These workers help to haul, bait and set traps while at sea. Often a position filled by a younger member of the family, the industry is now facing changing dynamics, and finding workers for both the spring and fall lobster seasons is growing difficult. The old guard of captains is retiring, and many of P.E.I.’s 1,300 lobster licenses, boats and expensive fleets are entering the marketplace. It’s one of the most lucrative times in the industry as the lobster catch has gone from about 18 million pounds to 30 million pounds today since the turn of the century.

Fishermen are hoping a new incentive will help to attract students to a unique summer job.

“Right now we are having crew issues and a new program is being developed to launch this spring for upcoming summer jobs,” said MacPherson.

The association is working with Holland College as a way to get the message out that all students, regardless of background and whether urban or country kids, are welcome to apply for the positions.

“It’s great outdoor work,’’ said association vice-president Bobby Jenkins. “Watch the sun rise and enjoy the salt breezes and catch lobster.”

There would be some trial testing, of course, which would include a few days of “hands-on” work to determine if applicants have the proper “sea legs” and a suitable constitution, something that is necessary as the work often involves biting cold, wind and rain, the smell of dead herring and the opportunity to hurl one’s breakfast.

“Of course, It’s not all sunny days,’’ said MacPherson. “They would have to be suited to the type of work.”



Organizations: Holland College

Geographic location: P.E.I. Fishermen

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Recent comments

  • James Mathias
    February 23, 2016 - 20:28

    I am a fisherman from Ontario. I have spent many seasons fishing on the east coast and as recently as the past springs lobster season in 2015. I love reading about the fishing industry and whats happening. When I see articles like this one I always wonder why it seems difficult for the captains to find workers each year. It would seem to me that over the years there are many factors that play into what seems like a shortage of workers, but I think the fisherman themselves are somewhat to blame. The younger generation do not seem as likely to take over the family fishing business as the aging generation or current captains did when they took over from their fathers, decades ago. The younger generation tend to look to social media sites and websites such as Craigs list , and Kijiji to look for jobs these days. If you take a look on those type of sites you will find it very difficult to find many jobs in the fishing industry, I believe the reason is, that the older generation are used to family members friends, & relatives helping out on the boats or they get word of mouth out around their community and usually people have come to them to seek employment. in recent years more and more individuals are getting better educated and finding higher paying jobs and leaving these fishing communities. This is not to say there are no individuals around looking for these types of positions but without the captains entering into the new age of technology and actually posting positions from further regions than they may be used to, (eg, local newspapers, word of mouth) , then no-one will know about the job opportunity that exists. I myself will be making my way out to the east coast again this spring to try and get a position on a lobster boat, and if I cannot secure a position prior to leaving my home then I will do what I always have and search in the old school fashion of walking the docks while the fisherman ready their gear for the up coming season. maybe if we educate the lobster fisherman about how to advertise then we would not see such a bad employee shortage for the boats. (just a thought)

  • Lobster FusherWOMAN
    February 20, 2016 - 15:13

    My day starts at 2:30 am and usually finishes at 6 or 7 pm, I thinks that more then 35 hrs a week. There is NO drinking in my boat and I pay my second man 1050/week! I do 50% of the work and have a great crew. Not everyone is cut out for fishing as it is very hard work, some people are more cut out for sitting on a computer waiting to post negative comments on much of what they read! Bring on the lobster fishing and the bawl babies!

  • Woweee
    February 20, 2016 - 00:50

    Whos cares about work for 2 months like find something better to talk about.. Like maybe a real job with real benifits.. Buck up pei buck up

  • andrew hudson
    February 19, 2016 - 09:56

    i would love to go fishing

  • Katie
    February 18, 2016 - 17:03

    How do I apply?

  • Mizraim
    February 18, 2016 - 11:28

    How do I apply and what is the pay like?

  • Bret
    February 18, 2016 - 09:21

    How do you apply for this?

  • scott
    February 18, 2016 - 08:52

    What's the pay like

  • mike84
    February 18, 2016 - 00:12

    Where do you apply??

  • Derek MacConnell
    February 17, 2016 - 23:23

    The problem is that lobster fishing is only 2 months of the year. Plus being on the water is not for everyone but I do miss it.

  • Kenneth Matheson
    February 17, 2016 - 23:02

    Hey my name is Kenneth I was wondering how a guy might hook a job down there I lobster fish in cape Breton and Yarmouth also crab fish halibut lots of experence .id like to find Alittle bit more out about it

  • The artist formerly known as Pogey
    February 17, 2016 - 12:45

    There will be lots of boys from out west looking for work this spring! Right now the construction industry is as slow as PEI drivers!

  • sikofit
    February 17, 2016 - 06:49

    There is an easy solution for this problem ..... Let them work the 9 weeks and draw EI for ten months just like the Captains !!!! You will fill the boats......

  • EI Fishing Monster
    February 17, 2016 - 06:16

    Corks do all the work now and most captains never leave the helm unless they go in the cuddy to open another beer ! The fishing EI Stamps will all say 60 -70 hours for EI though even though you will only actually work 35 hours a week so at least the EI is wicked ! And you can work for cash afterwards like many in that industry do .