Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Seafood Processing Job Fairs Draw Hundreds of Hopefuls

 

June 1, 2018

Wade Long, left, with Mel Bush, both veterans in the seasonal seafood processing industry, were among dozens of people waiting at the Anchorage Midtown Job Center for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development on April 26 to apply for jobs via the At-Sea Processors Association's job fair. Photo by Margaret Bauman.

Seafood processing job fairs coordinated with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development are attracting dozens of hopefuls for labor intensive jobs, some far from home, with plenty of overtime pay.

Among the dozens of workers lined up for the At-Sea Processors Association job fair in Anchorage on April 26 was Mel Bush, of Anchorage, just back from two months of processing Pacific cod for Golden Harvest at Adak, looking to see where he would be next processing seafood.

Bush, who is 61, but looks 20 years younger, came to Alaska a decade ago to work in the seafood processing business, and plans to keep at it for a couple more years before retiring.

"You can work, make good money, and then take a break," said Bush. "It allows you the flexibility to do that, to go see family."

An Army veteran with two adult children, Bush said he likes being able to visit them and his grandchildren in Maryland during his work breaks between the A and B groundfish seasons.

Bush said he stays in shape for the repetitive, fast paced work of seafood processing with a gym membership in Anchorage and taking his vitamins.

To date he has processed seafood at Adak, Dillingham, Dutch Harbor, False Pass, and Kenai.

Along with the steady pay and lots of overtime, Bush said he's made a lot of friends over the years, including Wade Long, 31, an Anchorage transplant from Pensacola, Florida, who came north to take seafood processing jobs several years ago. Long also was attracted by what he had heard, that it was "pretty hard work, but good money."

Bush and Long met working at False Pass, where Bush said they were warned to be careful going from the bunkhouse to the fish plant because of bears in the area.

His best job, said Bush, was sorting salmon roe, which is used for caviar, and the worst, pulling guts, usually from cod, but it could be salmon. "You put it in the grinder and stuff is flying all over the place. It's nasty," he said.

For Long, the best work to date has been slitting the bellies of salmon, and the worst, pitching salmon from the depths of fishing tenders into nets at the dock at False Pass.

"Most of these jobs run for about three months, but if you do well, they will offer you extensions at the end of the season," Long said. "I usually go from May to November," he said. How long will he continue to do this work? "Until it wears me out," he said.

Seafood processing jobs, especially those at sea, are not for the meek.

A flyer posted by At-Sea Processors for the job fair advises that those hired may work two to three months on board a catcher/processor vessel up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Applicants must speak and understand English, and pass a health, drug screen and criminal background check.

Pay with the At-Sea Processor companies is by percentage of catch or case rate, depending on the company, rather than hourly wages, including overtime.

Nelson San Juan overseas hiring of seafood workers for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development in Anchorage. Photo by Margaret Bauman.

Among those taking applications from potential workers that day was Tauni Ness, human resources director for Arctic Storm.

Of the some four dozen folks she interviewed, about 85 percent were experienced at this work, Ness said. "We are at sea processors. We look for people who are up to the challenge. It's hard work and they will be gone for a while.

Judging by the number of people who come back season after season, they must like it, she said.

What with seafood processing being a year-round industry in Alaska, the Alaska Department of Labor's Anchorage Midtown office is currently running seafood orientation sessions every weekday morning, plus a steady stream of job fairs. The list for May included Peter Pan Seafoods, Alaska Glacier Seafoods and Copper River Seafoods.

More information can be found via www.jobs.alaska.gov or call 1-800-473-0688.

 
 

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