"Graying of the Fleet"


Picture by Daniel Pullen

In 2016, 35% of North Carolina licensed commercial fishermen were ages 51-65 and only 19% were ages 19-34. The 65 and older age group even has a higher percentage than the younger fishermen. "Fewer young people are setting their sights on a fishing career" and people familiar with these statistics call it the "graying of the fleet."  

There are several factors that have changed in the industry since older fishermen started their careers decades ago. Before the 1990s, commercial licenses were less expensive and more available. The cost of fishing gear has also increased in recent years. "North Carolina fishermen report that the cost of a new crab pot is $48 and a 40lb flat of bait costs about $26." Crabbers fish hundreds of crab pots each day, so you can imagine the costs to run their operation.  Another factor is that the price of fuel has has more than tripled in the last few decades. 

"The goal of the Sea-Grant funded Next Generation Coastal Communities Project is to explore fishing community dynamics and ways to stem the departure of young people from the industry."  The project team has met with leaders and commercial fishermen in 15 coastal communities in North Carolina learning all about how locals in each community are supporting their local commercial fishermen and the industry. A final report of their findings will be out later this year. 

To read the full article about the "graying of the fleet" and the Next Generation Coastal Communities Project, click here.

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