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New survey reveals labor issues in Great Lakes commercial fishing

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A new survey from the Michigan Sea Grant program shows the Great Lakes commercial fishing industry is struggling to recruit and retain workers. New hires typically make as much as a fast-food worker, and the income is inconsistent.

The commercial fishermen who responded to the survey overwhelmingly said that keeping workers on board, literally, is the number one issue facing their businesses.

Lauren Jescovitch is with Michigan State University Extension. She says there is enthusiasm among young people to break into the field.

"But they kind of underestimate how much work there is. For instance, waking up at four or five AM and going out fishing. But then Americans really want a fillet or process product. So, after catching that fish, you need to sit and process the fish."

The survey found that nearly 70% of all fish caught out of the Great Lakes is processed and sold within 60 miles of the fishermen’s deck.

Jescovitch says the Young Fishermen’s Development Act is a program that will help create a new pipeline of workers for the commercial fishing industry.

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