Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary

Fishing, Hunting and Trapping

NAICS 1141; 1142

This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in harvesting fish and other wild animals from their natural habitats. It is composed of commercial inland and salt water fishing (excluding aquaculture which is part of the agriculture industry), as well as commercial hunting and trapping, including the exploitation and management of game preserves. Fishing is by far the predominant economic activity, accounting for almost all of the industry’s production and employment. While direct exports represent a small portion of total revenues, the fishing industry relies heavily on sales from the seafood product preparation and packaging industry which exports about 75% of its production. Main export markets are the United States (64% of exports in 2016), China (17%) and Hong Kong (3%). The industry employed 14,900 workers in 2016, mostly concentrated in the Atlantic Provinces (80%) and British Columbia (13%). The workforce is characterized by a high proportion of men (81%) and self-employed (58%). The industry also shows the highest unemployment rate (average of 23% over the past ten years) across the 42 industries covered by COPS, largely reflecting the seasonal nature of its activities. Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:

  • Fisherman/women (8262)
  • Fishing vessel deckhands (8441)
  • Fishing masters and officers (8261)
  • Trappers and hunters (8442)

The performance of the fishing industry is closely related to fluctuations in gobal supply and demand of fish and seafood and the net impact on world prices. Key challenges in Canada are associated with fish supply constraints and the various quotas and moratorium imposed on different species. The reason for those restrictions is that overfishing and environmental factors led to important decreases of several fish stocks, mainly ground-fish (such as cod and haddock) on the East coast and salmon on the West coast. Shellfish (lobsters, shrimps and crabs) have replaced other species as the main species harvested on the Atlantic coast, while the Pacific salmon fishery has gone through dramatic volatility since 2009. More recently, renewed growth in cod stocks has caused shrimp stocks to decline, prompting another round of quotas and leaving lobster as the Atlantic coast’s only major product. Over the period 2007-2016, environmental factors and diminishing stocks were largely responsible for restraining production in the fishing industry, with real GDP growth averaging only 0.9% annually. Modest growth in output was accompanied by substantial growth in productivity, leading to a cumulative drop of 40% in employment or 5.5% per year. Improvements in nautical and hydraulic lifting equipment has allowed the industry to boost productivity, while waning stocks in some less-efficient fisheries have sent workers searching elsewhere for employment.

Supply constraints are expected to continue to limit output growth in fishing over the projection period. In the near term, the significant reduction of shrimp quotas on the Altantic coast will lower the shrimp fishing’s contribution to industrial output, causing a structural correction in fisheries that will impact the industry for several years. In contrast, lobster landings are expected to keep increasing, as warming oceanic temperatures will continue to prompt lobster population to concentrate in more northern areas where the water is colder. But the complete impact of climate change on the health of lobsters and other species remains unknown and scientific research is still divided on the potential impacts of oceanic acidification and de-oxygenization. Nevertheless, increasing global demand for lobsters is a positive development for the industry as 90% of Canadian lobsters are exported. In addition to traditional market such as the United States and Europe, exports will be supported by an explosion of demand in China from the growing middle class. Furthermore, the ratification of the new trade agreement between Canada and the European Union will eliminate duties on a wide range of fish and seafood products, while the relatively low value of the Canadian dollar will help to improve the price-competitiveness of Canadian exports, particularly on the U.S. market. Supply constraints are projected, however, to lower real GDP growth to an average annual rate of 0.5% over the period 2017-2026, while employment is expected to keep declining, albeit at a slower pace of 1.5% per year. Further declines in employment reflect additional gains in productivity, athough those gains are not expected to be as robust as the previous ten years as the shift in industrial production toward higher-valued products winds down. Youth out-migration from coastal communities is also expected to reduce labour supply in the industry over the longer term, which may create some difficulties in attracting new workers.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Fishing, Hunting and Trapping

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of Fishing, Hunting and Trapping. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Fishing, Hunting and Trapping, 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 0.9 -5.5
2017-2026 0.5 -1.5

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).


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