Across the nation, the commercial fishing fleet is aging as younger people seek jobs outside of the industry. North Carolina’s coastal communities are exploring ways to shift that direction.
Young people who hitched their future to the North Carolina commercial fishing industry in the 1970s and 1980s followed a clear path. After learning the trade under the tutelage of an experienced captain, they struck out on their own with a modest boat and a small investment in fishing gear.
These new captains were confident about their future, buoyed by the 1976 passage of the Magnuson-Stevens Act — the primary law governing marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters — and national interest in expanding the country’s fishing economy.
Many fishermen of that generation continue to work in the industry. But these days, fewer young people are setting their sights on a fishing career. Those familiar with the situation describe it as the “graying of the fleet.”