UMass Dartmouth/Shore Support release report on New Bedford fishermen working conditions

A study by UMass Dartmouth economist Daniel Georgianna and fishermen advocacy organization Shore Support finds fishermen are working longer hours per trip.

Due to changes in federal regulations, fishermen in New Bedford are working longer hours per trip, with far fewer trips per year according to a recent study by a UMass Dartmouth economist in collaboration with the fishermen advocacy organization Shore Support. Meanwhile, as the fishery workforce declined significantly over the last decade, the individual income of fishermen increased. 

The report, entitled "Employment, Income and Working Conditions in New Bedford's Offshore Fisheries, was written by Professor Daniel Georgianna of the School for Marine Science and Technology and Shore Support Director Debra Shrader. The report compares data from 1993 and 2002. 

"This is one of the first in-depth studies to consider the real human impact of fishery regulations," said Prof. Georgianna. "It is important, going forward, that the day-to-day economic and social effects that federal rules have on fishermen and their families are better understood." 

Ms. Shrader added: "The report establishes a benchmark by which to measure future regulations. Until this report, there has not been any other point of comparison for the employment, income, and working conditions in the New Bedford offshore fisheries." 

Among the highlights of the study: 

* More than half of the scalloper crews interviewed reported that their work hours increased by four hours per day since the start of DAS. Some dragger crews reported that they no longer keep watches but work continuously, they take short "naps” when exhausted, then return to work. 

* Full-time employment as an offshore scallop and dragger fisherman dropped by about 20% (from 1,369 in 1993 to 1,140 in 2002). Over the same period, part-time employment almost in half (from 1,700 to 948). 

* Between 1993 and 2002, the total employment of fishermen in both fisheries decreased from 3,069 to 2,088; part-time employment decreased by more than full-time employment because full-time fishermen probably took less time off with fewer fishing trips available. 

* Between 1993 and 2002, the average gross stock per trip for scallopers increased from $34,034 in 1993 to $86,139 in 2002. 

* The annual gross stock for offshore New Bedford draggers actually decreased in 2002 dollars between 1993 and 2002, from $413,668 per vessel in 1993 to $365,615 per vessel in 2002. 

* The average full-time scalloper in 1993 took 16 trips in 1993, which paid an average $1,800 per trip for an annual average income of $29,000 in 2002 dollars. In 2002, full-time fisherman on scalloper vessels averaged over 8 trips, which paid roughly $6,500 per trip for an annual income of $53,000. In 1993, part-time scallopers averaged between two and three trips per year for an annual income of $4,500. In 2002, they averaged between one and two trips per year for an income of approximately $9,500 

* The average full-time fisherman on a dragger vessel took 23 fishing trips in 1993, which paid an average of $1,350 per trip for an annual average income of $31,000 in 2002 dollars. In 2002, 14 trips, paid an average of $3,100 per trip for an annual income of about $43,400. Part-time fisherman on dragger vessels averaged 7 fishing trips in 1993 for an average annual income of $9,500. In 2002, five fishing trips amounted to an average income of about $15,500. 

The study concludes that that DAS helped create more efficient patterns of fishing but made for longer watches on the vessels. The study also found that, despite the hazards of fishing, no regulations exist requiring vessels to maintain proper employment records on the identities of the crew.

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