Job Satisfaction in the Fishery in Two Southeast Alaskan Towns

Article excerpt

Job satisfaction provides us with a window to view the psycho-cultural adaptations of individuals in communities. In this case we are looking at three maritime occupations in two highly fishing-dependent communities in Southeast Alaska. A great deal of research has linked job satisfaction to individual attributes such as mental health and longevity; and social problems such as family violence, absenteeism, and job performance. Job satisfaction, in turn, is related to aspects of the occupation that can be impacted by changes resulting from development and/or management. The paper examines aspects of job satisfaction among commercial fishers, charter boat operators and fish plant workers in Petersburg and Craig, Southeast Alaska. Respondents were requested to rate 21 aspects of their present occupation in terms of their relative satisfaction. Analysis of the data resulted in a component structure very similar to that found among fishers in Nova Scotia, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic coast. Inclusion of non-commercial fishers in the sample gives this research a dimension that was missing in the earlier work. Interrelationships between job satisfaction data, aspects of the occupation (e.g., fishing type, crew size, etc.), and individual characteristics (e.g., age, years experience, fishing family origin, etc.) are examined and discussed in the paper in relationship to management and technological changes in the fishery. Overall, the paper provides an increment to our understanding of the theory of job satisfaction in the fishery.

Key words: commercial fishers, charter boat operators, fish plant workers, job satisfaction, Southeast Alaska


In recent decades delocalization of cultures and communities in Alaska has shifted human adaptive strategies away from concern with local environments towards greater concern with complex extra-local social, economic, and political systems. But these changes have not eliminated the fact that humans at the individual level continue to adapt by means of psycho-cultural characteristics. We suggest that the structure of job satisfaction provides us with a window through which to view these psycho-cultural characteristics.

It is strikingly obvious in North American and other societies that there is more to the occupation of fishing than money. What other occupation is reflected in a hugely popular recreational activity like fishing? We admit that many recreate by planting a garden, woodworking, and other crafts, indicating that farming and other skills also provide "incomes" other than money (for farming see Conger and Elder 1994), but fishing appears to select for and fulfill a number of psychic needs above and beyond an income. It takes one into a completely different environment, away from shore-based activities and allows the participant to become involved in the thrill of the hunt, pitting ones' luck and skill against others as well as against an elusive prey that is hidden beneath the water. It has been observed that fishers resist changing to alternative sources of income even when their catches fall to the point where it would make economic sense to do so. For example some fishermen in Nova Scotia were reluctant to sign up for government assistance during a fishery closure because it would require them to give up their licenses (Binkley 2000), which they hoped to use when the fishery recovered. Others continued to fish, using family labor and or a wife's income to subsidize their activities. Despite the disadvantages, wives did this because, according to Binkley (2000) they understood their husbands' need and desire to fish-a desire based on their self-image as a fisher (Davis 2000).

Satisfaction, or possibly more important, happiness flows from being involved in activities that one likes. The king of Bhutan declared in 1972 that gross national happiness (GNH) should be the measure of his country's development (Esty 2004), and measures of happiness seem to be taken more seriously by at least some economists (e. …