PEI

P.E.I. Fishermen's Association launching recruitment campaign

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association is launching a new campaign and training program to combat a growing problem in the lobster industry - fishermen are having trouble finding enough crew members. The association conducted a survey of 250 captains that showed many respondents were struggling to recruit crew.

Lobster captains struggling to find crew, survey shows

Many lobster captains report a difficulty finding crew members in a new survey. (CBC)

The P.E.I. Fishermen's Association is launching a new campaign and training program to combat a growing problem in the lobster industry — fishermen are having trouble finding enough crew members.

The association conducted a survey of 250 captains that showed many respondents were struggling to recruit crew members.

Fishermen describe the problem as a perfect storm: they are getting older, the catches are up, and they need two crew members to help handle the load. But finding them is now harder.

The survey showed:  

  • 38% said they "do experience difficulty in recruiting crew" 
  • 73% of captains are over age 45
  • 24% said they use family and friends to recruit crew, 59% said they use word of mouth, just 2% advertise or use social media

"The last two or three years, I found it more challenging with the big exodus heading for the west," said Craig Avery, president of the association. "I found it was harder to keep crew, a lot of guys left and went out there."

Craig Avery, president of the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association, says the last couple of years he's had trouble finding crew with people moving out west for work. (CBC)
Ian MacPherson, executive director of the association, had even more reasons. "Traditional sources have been family or local people in the community," he explained. "Unfortunately, we are seeing some depopulation in our rural communities. So that's a contributing factor."

"In a lot of cases, it would be that there's not an extra person on the boat," MacPherson continued. "And you know, our catches have been strong the past few years, so that creates a lot more work for those left on the boat. Hopefully it's not leading to safety issues, but that can be a concern."

Poster campaign

So the Fishermen's Association has gone on the hunt for new crew members, with posters ready to go up around Island high schools, colleges and UPEI.

A poster campaign will soon start in Island colleges, high schools and UPEI. (CBC)
"What we're trying to do is appeal to people that haven't been raised in fishing communities or worked on a boat in the past," said MacPherson. "They could be very capable to do that type of work, but haven't thought of it as a summer job."

MacPherson says the association is also working with Holland College to create a two or three day course that would expose potential recruits to the job, and get them ready.

"You try to prepare people as best you can in terms of operating safely, being prepared, weather is something no one can predict, so you want to make sure they know how to use all the proper equipment," he said. "So these are all the kinds of things the captains are hoping to see incorporated into the program."

Ian MacPherson, executive director of the Fishermen's Association, says depopulation of rural areas is another contributing factor in the troubles finding crew members. (CBC)
With many people who headed west for work now returning, the association hopes the crew shortage may not be as big an issue this coming spring or in the fall.

"But two years down the road that could be booming again, and everyone's heading back out again," said Avery. "So you're way better to take a proactive approach and be prepared."

The association hopes to have the Holland College course ready, and 25 recruits signed up in the next couple of months.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now