Commercial fishing is a highly lucrative business and a prominent activity around the world. Commercial fishing regulations consider any sale or exchange of seafood products as a commercial activity. Thus, it is considered a commercial transaction even if the product was exchanged for a non-monetary amount. For that reason, recreational anglers must obtain a specific commercial fishing license if they intend on exceeding standard daily bag limits or exchanging fish products for money or other items.

There are several commercial fishing methods that allow fishermen to profit off of catching freshwater and saltwater species. Popular examples include salmon, sardines, tuna, shrimp and lobster. To learn more about commercial fishing facts, the equipment used for catching large schools of fish and the biggest commercial fishing companies in terms of revenue, read the sections below.

What is commercial fishing?

Commercial fishing is catching or harvesting fish and other marine species with the intention to exchange or sell them. Various commercial fishing methods have been employed throughout history in order to feed populations and/or make a profit. In modern times, the consumption of seafood accounts for 20 percent of the global intake of animal protein. Therefore, various commercial fishing companies around the world cater to that demand. Workers in the commercial fishing industry may earn wages and salaries or become self-employed. Employment opportunities vary according to the scope of each operation and local regulatory limitations.

In general, commercial fishing regulations govern over anglers who sell or exchange species of fish for monetary or non-monetary values. Thus, recreational anglers must be mindful that they are only allowed to fish for fun or food. Conversely, they must obtain a commercial license and follow commercial-specific regulations if they intend on profiting off of their catches. In addition, certain commercial fishing nets and equipment may not be utilized by recreational anglers in certain states. For example, fishermen in Florida cannot carry both recreational and commercial types of nets at the same time.

What fish are typically caught in commercial fishing?

Commercial fishing companies and anglers typically focus on catching fish and other seafood species that are among consumers. However, commercial fisheries may catch different species depending on the region where they operate in. In general, the following fish are commonly caught through commercial fishing practices:

  • Anchovy
  • Carp
  • Cod
  • Flounder
  • Herring
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tuna

Certain commercial fishing methods are utilized for the catching of other types of seafood, such as crustaceans and mollusks. These marine species are some of the most common seafood products that are consumed around the world. Among the most popular types of seafood species caught by commercial anglers and fisheries, consider the following:

  • Clams
  • Crabs
  • Lobster
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Squid

What are the commercial fishing methods?

Various commercial fishing methods are utilized for catching of fish for sale or exchange purposes. The following commercial fishing nets are the most popular among commercial anglers and fisheries:

  • GillnetsGillnets and drift nets are common pieces of equipment used by commercial fishing enthusiasts to catch large schools of fish. These types of nets are hung underwater like a wall while suspended from a boat. Thus, they catch fish by their gills.
  • Otter trawling – Trawl nets are some of the most common commercial fishing nets among fisheries. This fishing method involves dragging these nets underwater and keeping them open by a large steel board called “otter board.”
  • Pair trawling – This method takes place when two vessels drag a single net between them. Thus, pair trawling involves the dragging of a very large net that catches and stores a large school of fish.
  • Pelagic trawling – The pelagic trawling technique is one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly commercial fishing nets utilized by commercial fishermen. This particular type of net is long but not wide, allowing it to catch fish without damaging an underwater habitat.
  • Purse seining – This method involves the drawing of a large net around a school of fish, trapping them around an encirclement. Purse seining is a particularly efficient technique for the catching of pelagic fish such as sardines and herring.

Certain commercial fishing techniques that do not include nets are also used to catch fish and other seafood species. For example, consider the following methods:

  • DredgingDredging involves the towing of metal cages across shellfish beds in order to catch scallops, oysters, mussels and other shellfish.
  • LongliningLonglining is an angling technique employed by commercial fisheries to catch fish that may not be caught by commercial fishing nets or trapping tools.
  • Lobster and crab potsLobster trapping is a method of catching lobsters and crabs by trapping them in pots made of metal, rope or wood. Like most trapping methods, this technique lures lobsters into a pot and leaves them unable to get out.

What is a commercial fishing license?

A commercial fishing license is a document issued by a state’s fishing regulatory agency. Moreover, commercial licenses authorize anglers and fisheries to catch seafood for sale or exchange purposes. However, commercial fishing regulations for obtaining licenses can vary according to each region, species of fish and type of habitat. The following licenses may be obtained for commercial purposes:

  • Individual commercial licenses – This license is issued to a single individual to fish for commercial purposes in either a saltwater and freshwater habitat. Fishing enthusiasts who intend to pursue careers as commercial fishermen and women may obtain this license while seeking a job.
  • Crew commercial licenses – This commercial fishing license authorizes the individual listed on the document and those alongside him or her to catch fish. However, this type of license may be subject to different restrictions depending on each region. For example, Oregon requires all commercial anglers to be individually licensed under a crew license.
  • Vessel commercial licenses – This license is attached to a vessel rather than issued to an angler. Moreover, a boat must be registered with the state in order to operate in commercial fishing. In addition, to acquire this license, the U.S. Coast Guard must deem the vessel safe for usage.

What is the best commercial fishing equipment?

The appropriate equipment must be obtained for commercial fishing methods to be effective. Common types of commercial fishing gear include:

  • Boat engine-related equipment for maintenance and repairs
  • Commercial fishing nets
  • Electric fishing lights
  • Electrical and duct tape
  • Fish aggregating devices
  • Fish finder
  • Gaffs
  • Insulated fish bins
  • Life jackets, flares, buoys
  • Liners, rubber gloves
  • Lobster and crab pots, bait baskets
  • Navigation gear
  • Radio beacons
  • Ropes and cable ties
  • Stainless steel hooks
  • Wet weather gear for anglers

What boats are used for commercial fishing?

Vessels used in commercial fishing are typically not as stylish or new as most of the popular recreational fishing boats. In general, commercial fishermen require large, sturdy and dependable motorized vessels with the engine power to drag very large nets. Moreover, fishing trips may take place over an extended period of time. For that reason, these boats must have room for employees of commercial fishing companies to seek shelter, eat and rest. The following are some of the most common types of vessels used in commercial fishing:

  • Trawlers – Trawlers are used for techniques such as otter trawling, pair trawling and pelagic trawling. Generally, these methods involve the dragging of commercial fishing nets underwater.
  • Seiners – Boats used for purse seining allow commercial anglers to encircle schools of fish with a large net and trap them.
  • Liners – Liners are used for any commercial fishing activity that involves lining, such as longlining or trolling.
  • Dredgers – Dredgers are specific types of boats used for dredging. This method involves the trapping of scallops, oysters and mussels inside metal cages that are dragged across their natural habitats.

What are commercial fishing facts?

Throughout history, various civilizations have employed commercial fishing methods. For instance, the practice of catching and selling fish can be traced as far back as 2000 B.C. in Egypt. During modern times, seafood represents 20 percent of all global intake of animal protein. Below are other interesting commercial fishing facts.

  • Most U.S. commercial anglers are self-employed. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 40 percent of workers in the fishing and hunting industries are employed by commercial fishing companies and earn wages or salaries. Conversely, 60 percent of commercial fishermen are self-employed.
  • Fishing is a multi-billion-dollar industry. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the catching and sale of fish and other seafood is a multi-billion-dollar industry that generates millions of jobs.
  • Commercial fishing is one of Alaska’s largest private-sector industries. Fishing employs thousands of Alaskan workers. Moreover, the state produces a significant amount of seafood that is sold across the United States and around the world.

What are commercial fishing companies?

According to the last industry reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published in 2006, the U.S. commercial fishing industry generated $185 billion in sales. The largest seafood companies in terms of revenue in the United States include:

  • Tri Marine International
  • Chicken of the Sea
  • High Liner Foods
  • Bumble Bee Foods
  • Nissui
  • StarKist
  • Mazzetta Company
  • Cooke Aquaculture
  • Beaver Street Fisheries
  • American Seafoods Group
  • Marine Harvest
  • Eastern Fish Co.
  • H&N Foods International
  • Aqua Star
  • Maruha Nichiro Corporation

Throughout commercial fishing history, various species of seafood have been caught and harvested for profits. However, the most consistently profitable products include salmon, tuna, sardines, shrimp, lobster, carp, herring, cod, krill, crab and clams. Additionally, certain commercial fishermen have specialized in catching other seafood species such as oysters, anchovy, scallops and squid.

Who is best suited for a career in commercial fishing?

A career in commercial fishing requires individuals who are significantly skilled in fishing. In addition, other activities required for the job include:

  • Maintaining equipment. Commercial fishing nets, rods, traps are examples of equipment used to catch large schools of fish. Thus, commercial anglers must be familiar with these types of gear and be able to maintain or repair them occasionally.
  • Preserving catches. Fisheries must generally catch various fish at any given day in order to make a profit. Therefore, their employees must to be able to handle and preserve a large number of catches. Like with any other job, damaging or failing to preserve products intended to be sold is a serious issue.
  • Complying with regulations. Commercial fishing regulations are different from those issued for recreational anglers. For that reason, commercial fishermen must comply with commercial-specific regulations that regard legal sizes and daily catch limits.
  • Operating and repairing boats. Commercial anglers must be able to operate boat engines and occasionally perform minor repairs to them. Additionally, because most of their activities are conducted aboard a vessel, workers may also need to display navigation skills.

What is the average annual salary for professional commercial fishermen?

Commercial fishing facts regarding salaries vary according to each state. For instance, the average salary for a commercial fishermen in Florida is significantly higher than it is in Texas. When evaluating national averages, salaries may also vary according to the level of experience of a worker. A starting commercial fisherman can make an average of $7.88 per hour or $16,393 per year. Conversely, an experienced commercial angler can make up to $24.56 per hour or $51,088 per year. Thus, the average annual salary for an individual in this field is $32,361, or $15.56 per hour.

Commercial fishing jobs are offered in full-time and part-time capacities. According to the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics, fishing and hunting employment is expected to grow by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Is commercial fishing bad for the environment?

Certain commercial fishing methods can be extremely harmful to the environment. These practices can destroy coral reefs, pollute waters and kill threatened or endangered species. However, commercial fishing regulations are in place to enforce sustainable practices among commercial fishermen. These guidelines vary according to each type of habitat, region of the world and species of fish. In general, commercial fishing problems are related to irresponsible practices from workers that disregard the regulations established by governing bodies. Be mindful of the following destructive fishing techniques that can harm a saltwater or freshwater habitat:

  • Overfishing
  • Bottom trawling
  • Polluting waters with poisonous chemicals
  • Dropping explosives in the water
  • Ghost fishing

For a commercial fishing license to be issued, renewed or upheld in a certain state, anglers must follow the local regulations concerning this activity. To learn more about conservation facts, as well as the risks posed by recreational and commercial fishing, click here.

What are the commercial fishing regulations?

Different states or regions have different commercial fishing regulations for freshwater and saltwater habitats. However, guidelines do not change between commercial fishing companies and self-employed fishermen. In general, regulations concerning commercial fishing are related to the following activities:

  • The selling or exchanging of fish as products. Exchanging fish for monetary or non-monetary amounts is considered a commercial activity. Therefore, anglers must acquire a commercial fishing license and follow commercial-specific guidelines if they intend to trade their catches.
  • The daily bag limits. Despite not being regulated the same way as recreational anglers, commercial fishermen must still respect the daily bag limits established by federal and state regulatory bodies. For example, according to Florida regulations, commercial anglers in the Atlantic Ocean may only catch two corbia fish per day.
  • The use of commercial equipment. Certain states may classify certain types of gear as commercial equipment. In general, commercial fishing regulations generally encompass equipment intended to catch large schools of fish. For instance, only commercial fishermen in North Carolina can use cast nets.

For more information regarding fishing regulations, click here.