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Socio-economic Profile of Canada's Fishing Industry Labour Force 1994–2006

Workers demographic profile in the fishing industry

1.1 Profile based on gender

Since the 1976 census, slightly more than half of Canadians are female. In 2006, females accounted for 51% of the total population and 52% of people aged 15 and older[9]. Although women are slightly more numerous in the country, they are a bit underrepresented in the workforce. In 2006, they accounted for 47% of the labor force and occupied 47% of the jobs in all industries. In contrast, in the fishing industry, only 34% of workers were female (Figure 1.1). Their proportion was even lower among self-employed fish harvesters in the industry, representing only 20% of workers. In other categories of work, with the exception of the fish processing sector in which women held 48% of the jobs, there were three times more men than women. Thus the Canadian fishing industry is characterized by a strong male presence (Table 1.1).

Figure 1.1 Work Distribution According to Gender, 2006

Bar chart depiction the Work Distribution According to Gender for 2006.

View long description of this chart.

Table 1.1 Workers' Distribution According to Gender and Sector, 2006
  Men Women
Number of Workers % Number of Workers %
Self-employed 20,775 80 5,345 20
Wage-earning 15,714 75 5,366 25
Fish Processing 21,812 52 20,168 48
Aquaculture 3,508 75 1,162 25
Fishing Industry 61,756 66 32,084 34
Canadian Industries as a Whole 8,727,100 53 7,757,200 47
Source: Statistics on Canadian industries overall, Statistics Canada, table 282-0002 - Labor Force Survey (LFS), yearly estimates based on gender and detailed age groups (individuals, except otherwise indicated), CANSIM table.

The high proportion of male workers in the Canadian fishing industry is reflected at the regional level. However, the large disparity is slightly lower in British Columbia and slightly higher in the Central Provinces and Northern Territories. In 2006, men constituted 66% of workers in the Atlantic Provinces, 63% in British Columbia and 70% in the Central Provinces. It is in the Northern Territories where the percentage of men was highest at 75%. In the Northern Territories, men comprised the entire self-employed and wage-earning fish harvesting workforce. Relatively speaking, there were more women working in fish processing, constituting 39% of the workforce in the north (Table 1.2). On the other hand, it is important to note that the majority of workers in fish processing from New Brunswick and Quebec-Atlantic are female, holding 53% and 56% of the jobs (Table 1.2). Moreover, Quebec-Atlantic also has the highest proportion of female aquaculture workers. Female workers represent one of every three workers in the region compared to one for every four workers in the rest of the country.

Table 1.2 Workers' Distribution According to Gender, Sector and Region, 2006
  Self-employed Fish Harvesters Wage-earning Fish Harvesters Fish Processing Workers Aquaculture Workers Fishing Industry as a Whole
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
Atlantic Provinces 80% 20% 75% 25% 51% 49% 74% 26% 66% 34%
Newfoundland & Labrador 75% 25% 66% 34% 50% 50% 77% 23% 63% 37%
Prince Edward Island 73% 27% 78% 22% 53% 47% 79% 21% 66% 34%
Nova Scotia 89% 11% 79% 21% 59% 41% 70% 30% 75% 25%
New Brunswick 87% 13% 80% 20% 47% 53% 73% 27% 62% 38%
Quebec (Atlantic) 90% 10% 68% 32% 44% 56% 67% 33% 59% 41%
Quebec (Whole Province) 87% 12% 73% 27% 50% 49% 72% 28% 63% 36%
Central Provinces 82% 18% 80% 20% 59% 41% 76% 24% 70% 30%
Ontario 75% 25% 76% 24% 57% 43% 76% 24% 64% 36%
Manitoba 83% 17% 83% 17% 63% 38% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Saskatchewan 88% 13% 75% 25% 67% 33% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Alberta 76% 24% 86% 14% 61% 39% 78% 22% 72% 28%
British Columbia 77% 23% 53% 47% 51% 49% 76% 24% 63% 37%
Northern Territories 100% 0% 100% 0% 61% 39% n.a. n.a. 75% 25%
Yukon n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 67% 33% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Northwest Territories 100% 0% n.a. n.a. 50% 50% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Nunavut 100% 0% 100% 0% 62% 38% n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.
Canada 80% 20% 75% 25% 52% 48% 75% 25% 66% 34%

1.2 Profile based on age

The fishing industry, like most Canadian industries[10], is not excluded from the workforce ageing phenomenon. Baby-boomers, who are now between the ages of 41 and 61, are coming close to retirement and this has made the ageing trend more acute. Workers 40 years and older held 59% of the jobs in the fishing industry in 2006 compared to 52% in other industries in Canada (Table 1.3). This ageing phenomenon appears to be more acute among self-employed fish harvesters, as 70% of them were 40 years and older. In contrast to other sectors in the fishing industry, the aquaculture sector enjoys a younger workforce, as only 40% of workers are aged 40 or over.

Table 1.3 Workers' Distribution According to Age Group and Sector, 2006
  Self-employed Fish Harvesters Wage-earning Fish Harvesters Fish Processing Workers Aquaculture Workers Fishing Industry as a Whole Canadian Industries as a Whole
Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers %
Less than 20 years 580 2% 1,170 6% 3,720 9% 370 8% 5,840 6% 954 6%
20 - 39 years 7,410 28% 8,290 39% 14,470 34% 2,450 52% 32,621 35% 7,014 43%
40 - 59 years 14,030 54% 10,060 48% 21,090 50% 1,670 36% 46,852 50% 7,532 46%
60 years and more 4,100 16% 1,550 7% 2,700 6% 180 4% 8,530 9% 984 6%
Total (All Ages) 26,120 100% 21,070 100% 41,980 100% 4,670 100% 93,843 100% 16,484 100%

Source: Statistics for Canadian industries. Statistics Canada. Table 282-0002 - Labor Force Survey (LFS), yearly estimates based on gender and the detailed age group (individuals, except otherwise indicated), CANSIM table.

In general, the age of workers employed in the fishing industry seems to be fairly comparable from one region to the next. However, it is important to note the differences. First, fish processing and aquaculture workers are generally younger in British Columbia than in the Atlantic Provinces for 2006. Second, there is a younger workforce in the Central Provinces, where freshwater based fishing predominates in all types of employment. In addition to these regional differences that were observed in 2006, self-employed fish harvesters were older in Quebec than in the rest of the country. In fact, the workforce aged 40 years and over encompasses 84% of the population in the Quebec-Atlantic region and 80% overall for the province. Moreover, wage-earning fish harvesters in Quebec-Atlantic and in Newfoundland and Labrador are older than their counterparts in other regions. Wage-earning fish harvesters 40 years and older accounted for 69% and 65% of the population in the two provinces, respectively. In sharp contrast with these two provinces, workers in Prince Edward Island are considerably younger, as only 38% of workers belong in the same age group. Another regional difference that was observed from the study was that although the aquaculture sector retained a younger workforce in general, workers in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec were still slightly older than the average, with 57% and 53% of workers 40 and over respectively (Table 1.4).

Table 1.4 Workers' Distribution According to Age Group, Sector and Region, 2006
  Self-employed Fish Harvesters Wage-earning Fish Harvesters Fish Processing Workers Aquaculture Workers
Less than 20 years 20 - 39 years 40 - 59 years 60 years and more Less than 20 years 20 - 39 years 40 - 59 years 60 years and more Less than 20 years 20 - 39 years 40 - 59 years 60 years and more Less than 20 years 20 - 39 years 40 - 59 years 60 years and more
Atlantic Provinces 2% 28% 56% 13% 5% 39% 50% 7% 8% 32% 54% 7% 8% 49% 39% 4%
Newfoundland & Labrador 2% 31% 58% 9% 6% 29% 57% 8% 9% 29% 56% 6% 6% 37% 51% 6%
Prince Edward Island 2% 26% 57% 15% 9% 53% 34% 3% 10% 39% 43% 9% 11% 57% 33% 0%
Nova Scotia 2% 28% 52% 18% 5% 42% 47% 6% 9% 33% 50% 8% 6% 52% 39% 3%
New Brunswick 1% 26% 54% 20% 4% 43% 46% 6% 6% 34% 53% 6% 9% 51% 37% 3%
Quebec (Atlantic) 0% 12% 66% 18% 2% 28% 60% 9% 5% 27% 62% 7% n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s.
Quebec (Whole Province) 0% 21% 61% 19% 5% 38% 50% 8% 9% 33% 52% 7% 6% 41% 47% 6%
Central Provinces 0% 24% 48% 27% 7% 45% 38% 10% 10% 46% 38% 6% 15% 56% 30% 0%
British Columbia 4% 29% 46% 21% 8% 35% 42% 16% 11% 39% 44% 6% 7% 57% 33% 3%
Northern Territories n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s.
Canada 2% 28% 54% 16% 6% 39% 48% 7% 9% 34% 50% 6% 8% 52% 36% 4%

Note: Because of measures taken to protect the confidentially of data used in this report, the sum of percentages appearing for each age group many not be equal to 100%.

1.3 Distribution according to gender and age, Statistics Canada data

This section examines the profile of the labor force by gender and age for fish harvesters and fish processing workers according to the definition provided by the 2006 Population Census of Statistics Canada[11]. A caveat to mention is that the 2006 Population Census data came from year 2005. As mentioned in Section 1.1, there are approximately 4% more women than men aged 15 and over in the general Canadian population. This gender gap expands in the higher age groups owing to the longer life expectancy among women. Based on the 2006 Census, there were 12% more women than men among Canadians 65 years and older in 2005. However, they are less likely to be employed or seeking employment, as they represent only a third of the workforce. However, in the youngest age category, namely people aged 15 to 19, there were as many men as women making up the population (Table 1.5). This picture nationally is reflected in the fishing industry. Like in most industries, there are fewer female workers aged 65 and over. In this age category, they account for only 9% of fish harvesters and 19% of the workers in fish processing. However, age does not appear to play a decisive role in the decline of women's participation in the workforce. Women under 20 (9%) were not more numerous than women in other age categories among fish harvesters, and neither were they among fish processors (24%).

Table 1.5 Active Population Distribution According to Gender and Age, in 20051,2
Age Fish Harvesters (Self-employed and Wage-earning) Fish Processing Workers Fish Harvesters and Fish Processing Workers Canadian Industries as a Whole
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
15 - 19 years 91% 9% 76% 24% 82% 18% 50% 50%
20 - 54 years 82% 18% 68% 32% 74% 26% 52% 48%
55 - 64 years 83% 17% 49% 51% 66% 34% 56% 44%
65 years and more 91% 9% 81% 19% 88% 12% 67% 33%
Total ( 15 years plus) 83% 17% 66% 34% 73% 27% 53% 47%

Notes:
1. The age group of 15 years and more represents the whole active population.
2. All percentages are based on the active population per age group in the 2006 Census.
Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Population Census, product no. 97-551-XCB2006005 in the Statistics Canada catalog.

1.4 Distribution according to work sector

This section analyzes the recent employment trends, namely between 2002 and 2006, in the fishing industry. During this period, employment in all Canadian industries increased on average 1.9% per year. At the same time, the unemployment rate in Canada decreased each year on average by 0.2%, reaching 6.3% in 2006 which is the lowest in several decades[12]. However, the fishing industry did not benefit from these good economic conditions in the labour market. In the fishing industry as a whole, the number of jobs has decreased by 12,860 between 2002 and 2006, i.e. an average of 3.1% per year, reaching 93,840. Only the wage-earning fish harvesting sector managed to buck the trend, as it grew from 17,210 to 21,080 jobs during this time period, for an annual growth of 5.6% (Table 1.6).

Table 1.6 Recent Changes in Employment by Sector, 2002-2006
  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers %
Self-employed Fish Harvesters 31,480 30 31,370 30 30,890 30 28,230 29 26,120 28
Wage-earning Fish Harvesters 17,210 16 19,400 19 19,520 19 20,910 21 21,080 22
Fish Processing Workers 52,530 49 48,870 47 47,080 46 43,790 45 41,980 45
Aquaculture Workers 5,490 5 5,210 5 4,820 5 5,130 5 4,670 5
Fishing Industry Workers as a Whole 106,700 100 104,840 100 102,300 100 98,070 100 93,840 100

This sustained decline in the number of jobs in the fishing industry, in contrast to the generally favourable conditions in the Canadian economy, is caused by several factors. Among these are the programs implemented by the federal government to restructure the Canadian fishing industry in reaction to the collapse of the Atlantic groundfish stocks that occurred at the beginning of the 1990's.

Measures which included the Atlantic Fishing Adaptation Program (1990-1995), the Northern Cod Adjustment and Recovery Program (1992-1994), the Atlantic Groundfish Adjustment Program (1994-1998) and the Canadian Fisheries Adjustment and Restructuring Program (1998-2000). Many of these programs included fishing licence buybacks and early retirement components directly aimed at reducing the number of fish harvesters.

In addition to the impacts of the restructuring programs in the fisheries, there are also demographic and economic considerations that may contribute to the observed decline in jobs in the industry. Better economic prospects in other industries and in the western parts of Canada, especially in Alberta, may have prompted thousands of workers, especially younger ones to leave the Atlantic Provinces, making it more difficult to recruit labour in the fishing industry.

Moreover, in terms of the distribution of workers in the four work sectors, the fish processing sector is the largest, holding 45% of the jobs. This was followed by self-employed fish harvesting (28%), wage-earning fish harvesting (22%) and aquaculture (5%). This distribution, shown in Table 1.6 and illustrated in Figure 1.3, has not changed significantly in recent years. The most notable change is an increase of 6% from 2002 to 2006 in the number of wage-earning fish harvesters. This increase came at the expense of the fish processing and self-employed fish harvesting sectors. The share of jobs in these two sectors fell by 4% and 2% respectively.

Figure 1.2 Recent Changes in Employment by Sector, 2002 – 2006

Bar chart depicting the Recent Changes in Employment by Sector from 2002 to 2006.

View long description of this chart.

1.5 Geographic distribution

As expected, most of the jobs created in the fishing industry are in the Atlantic Provinces and British Columbia, two regions where the commercial marine fisheries occupy a prominent role. In 2006, Newfoundland and Labrador ranked first in this regard with 27% of the jobs, followed by Nova Scotia (20%). New Brunswick and British Columbia shared third with 16% each. Quebec and Prince Edward Island were next with 9% and 6% of the jobs respectively. The other provinces and Northern Territories together accounted for only 7% of the employment in the industry. This distribution, shown in Figure 1.3, remained unchanged from 2002 to 2006, except for a slight decrease of 1% for British Columbia.

Figure 1.3 Recent Changes in Employment by Region, 2002 – 2006

Bar chart depicting the Recent Changes in Employment by Region from 2002 to 2006.

View long description of this chart.

In all provinces except Ontario and Alberta, the number of fishing related jobs decreased from 2002 to 2006. Newfoundland experienced the greatest decline in jobs, with a loss of 3,390 workers, representing 27% of all jobs lost in the fishing industry. This was followed closely by Nova Scotia and British Columbia, with losses of 3,310 and 2,890 respectively. The loss of jobs was less prominent in New Brunswick (1,770), Quebec (950) and Prince Edward Island (770), although the rate of decline is similar to the average observed throughout Canada. In contrast, fishery employment grew by 17.4% in Alberta and 3.8% in Ontario, two provinces where freshwater fishing is very important. These are important gains, although, they represent only 490 and 380 jobs respectively, given the low significance of these two provinces in the fishing industry in Canada.

1.6 Employment distribution per sector and region

The fish processing sector ranks first in terms of jobs generated in all Canadian provinces except Nova Scotia and the Northern Territories. The sector's importance is even more pronounced in New Brunswick and Quebec where it provides more than half the jobs in the industry. The regional distribution of employment by worker category is shown in Figure 1.4. Combining the self-employed and wage-earning fish harvesters into one category of workers produces an entirely different story. According to this grouping, harvesters would make up the majority of jobs in provinces such as Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick, where they represent 66%, 55%, and 52% of the fishing industry jobs respectively. In the Central Provinces, harvesters would represent 48% of the jobs. The fishing industry in British Columbia is the most diversified in terms of jobs. In this province, fish processing workers hold 46% of the jobs, while harvesters and aquaculture workers account for 41% and 13% of the workforce respectively.

Figure 1.4 Employment Distribution According to Region and Sector, 2006

Bar chart depicting the Employment Distribution According to Region and Sector in 2006.

View long description of this chart.

1.7 Contribution of the fishing industry to the workforce in Canada

All industries in Canada together provided just over 16 million jobs in 2006. The relative contribution of the fishing industry in this respect may seem negligible, just 0.5%, but the number of jobs is significant. The fishing industry was the main source of income for 79,000 Canadian residents and provided employment income to 93,840 individuals. This does not include workers earning an income in the transportation and sales of seafood products. This section examines the contribution of the fishing industry to total employment at the regional level. It must be noted that the job figures do not exactly match those presented in the rest of the report, due to different methodologies used to produce them[13.

Table 1.7 Contribution of the Fishing Industry to Employment in Canadian Industries, 2006
  Fishing Industry Workers as a Whole Canadian Industries as a Whole
Number of Jobs % Number of Jobs
Atlantic Provinces 59,650 4.1 1,454,650
Newfoundland & Labrador 22,630 8.8 257,080
Prince Edward Island 4,940 6.7 73,930
Nova Scotia 16,020 3.5 457,420
New Brunswick 12,190 3.2 381,010
Quebec (Atlantic) 3,880 1.4 285,410
Quebec (Whole Province) 6,620 0.2 3,835,790
Central Provinces 4,490 0.1 8,952,340
Ontario 2,230 0 6,040,540
Manitoba 1,530 0.3 561,320
Saskatchewan 290 0.1 465,160
Alberta 440 0 1,885,320
British Columbia 11,940 0.6 2,038,750
Northern Territories 170 0.3 59,600
Yukon 20 0.1 19,190
Northwest Territories 30 0.1 25,770
Nunavut 120 0.8 14,660
Canada 79,000 0.5 16,055,930

The contribution of the fishing industry to jobs at the regional level, presented in Table 1.7, shows that this industry played a major role in 2006 in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island. The industry contributed about 9% and 7% of the jobs in these two provinces. It also played a significant role in Nova Scotia (3.5%) and New Brunswick (3.2%). It also provided a significant number of jobs in British Columbia, 13,880, despite its small contribution to total employment in the province at 0.6%.

The importance of the fishing industry becomes more apparent in comparison to other industries that form the primary sector (Figure 1.5). Fishery related jobs accounted for 14% of the total number of jobs generated in the primary sector in Canada. The largest industries in the primary sector include the oil and gas industry which accounted for 22% of the workforce, the forestry industry at 17% and mining at 13%.

Figure 1.5 Workers Distribution in the Primary Sector in Canada, 2006

Pie chart depicting the Workers Distribution in the Primary Sector in Canada in 2006.

View long description of this chart.

In 2006, the fishing industry surpassed the other primary industries in four Atlantic Provinces in terms of contribution to employment (Table 1.8 and Figure 1.6). It is in Newfoundland and Labrador where the fishing industry made up the largest component of the primary sector (69%), followed by Nova Scotia (58%), Prince Edward Island (58%), and New Brunswick (45%).

In contrast, in the Central Provinces, the oil and gas industry generated the most number of jobs in the primary sector, especially in Alberta. Likewise, the fishing industry also constituted a small segment of the primary sector in British Columbia and in the Northern Territories at 14% and 6% respectively. In British Columbia, the forestry industry led by providing 39% of the total primary sector jobs. In the Northern Territories, mining provided employment to 67% of the workforce in the primary sector.

Table 1.8 Geographic Distribution of Workers in the Primary Sector, 2006
  Fishing Industry Workers Forestry Oil and Gas Extraction Mining Other Industries in the Primary Sector Primary Sector as a Whole
Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers % Number of Workers %
Atlantic Provinces 59,650 50 17,900 15 6,370 5 12,900 11 23,450 19 120,270 100
Newfoundland & Labrador 22,630 69 2,280 7 2,600 8 3,320 10 2,100 6 32,930 100
Prince Edward Island 4,940 58 170 2 280 3 60 1 3,010 36 8,460 100
Nova Scotia 16,020 58 2,290 8 1,690 6 2,220 8 5,550 20 27,770 100
New Brunswick 12,190 45 4,360 16 1,730 6 3,900 15 4,660 17 26,840 100
Quebec (Atlantic) 3,880 16 8,800 36 60 0 3,400 14 8,130 33 24,270 100
Quebec (Whole Province) 6,620 7 29,600 32 570 1 15,890 17 40,360 43 93,040 100
Central Provinces 4,490 2 18,540 7 108,020 40 35,710 13 101,290 38 268,050 100
Ontario 2,230 2 11,410 12 3,030 3 18,980 20 58,330 62 93,980 100
Manitoba 1,530 8 800 4 1,370 8 3,320 18 11,010 61 18,030 100
Saskatchewan 290 1 1,350 4 10,850 33 7,380 23 12,920 39 32,790 100
Alberta 440 0 4,980 4 92,770 75 6,030 5 19,030 15 123,250 100
British Columbia 11,940 14 34,660 39 7,090 8 7,770 9 26,790 30 88,250 100
Northern Territories 170 6 160 6 490 17 1,890 67 120 4 2,830 100
Yukon 20 2 40 5 90 11 620 78 40 5 810 100
Northwest Territories 30 2 120 7 380 22 1,140 67 50 3 1,720 100
Nunavut 120 40 n.s. n.s. n.s. n.s. 130 43 30 10 300 100
Canada 79,000 14 92,050 17 122,450 22 70,770 13 183,860 34 548,130 100

Nevertheless, the importance of the fishing industry for many communities across Canada, especially for the aboriginal population, cannot be properly quantified by the number of jobs alone. The number of jobs generated at the provincial and territorial level may seem small or even insignificant statistically for the Central Provinces and the Northern Territories, but these jobs provide a key source of income for workers and contribute to economic and social development of many rural and remote communities. The analysis of this important source of income is the subject of the next section.

Figure 1.6 Geographic Distribution of Workers in the Primary Sector by Region, 2006

Bar chart depicting the Geographic Distribution of Workers in the Primary Sector by Region in 2006.

View long description of this chart.


[9] Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Population Census, product no 97-551-XCB2006005 in the Statistics Canada catalog

[10] According to Statistics Canada, “The ageing of the labor force in Canada continued between 2001 and 2006. In 2006, workers aged 55 and more represented 15.3% of the labor force compared to 11.7% five years earlier.” Canada's Changing Labor Force, 2006 Census, p. 30, Statistics Canada, No. 97-559 in catalog.

[11] The methodology is different than the one used in this report. Note that the Statistics Canada definition does not separate out self employed fish harvesters from wage-earning fish harvesters.

[12] Statistics Canada, CANSIM : V 2 062 811 and V 2 062 815

[13] The main difference is that this section only counts the 79,000 workers whose main source of income came from a fishing related activity, and not the 93,840 individuals who earned a positive income in fishing related income even if fishing was not their main source of employment income.

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