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Sundhed og Samfund SDU & Fiskeriets Arbejdsmiljøråd, Es-

bjerg 2015, p. 19ff; S. Grøn



Sikkerhed i fiskerierhvervet,

Center for Maritim Sundhed og Samfund SDU, Esbjerg 2014.


H. Østergaard


.: op. cit., 2015.


The fishermen who disappeared

This article explores the causal factors concerning those

fishermen who have already left the fishing industry and

those leaving it today.

The history of the Danish fishery is a story of a profes-

sion which, since the Middle Ages, has lived through major

crises. It has gone up and down, but mostly downward in

the past 30 years. Denmark is, however, still a major fish-

ing nation, the second largest in the EU, and of great social

importance. For each fisherman at sea, there are about six

full-time dependent businesses ashore.

Upheaval in the fishing industry has been very marked

in recent years. The map of the Danish fishery has been re-

versed, with fishing moving from the east coast to the west

coast of Denmark, and this movement continues. The num-

ber of people employed in fishing has declined by about 60

percent since 2000, and the fleet has been significantly re-

duced. This is the general picture for all fishing ports – par-

ticularly in east Denmark. Many auctions have closed down,

and in east Denmark many fishing ports have disappeared

– a development which seems to be continuing.

The active commercial fishermen are getting older and

older. Generation renewal is a challenge which seems far

from easy to solve. The fishing fleets are also getting older

and older. Many fishermen are under pressure in terms of

earnings, and many are unable to get loans from banks for

modernisation and operation of their vessels. Many small and

medium-size cutters are for sale, but it is difficult to find buy-

ers. Prices of many fish species are now approximately on

a par with the price 10-15 years ago, and the opportunity to

catch a greater quantity of fish is limited under the existing

quotas and EU regulations. The catches are increasingly con-

centrated on relatively few but large vessels, and the new ves-

sels are mainly larger vessels and small single-man cutters.

In some ways the situation in the fishing industry has

improved slightly in recent years. Some fishing quotas have

been increased. The financial crisis is abating, and the op-

portunity to obtain bank loans has improved slightly for some

fishermen. The significant decline in the number of fisher-

men has decreased since 2008. Previously, a large part of the

fishing fleet was scrapped in order to balance fishing capacity

and fishing resources, resulting in a lengthy period where a

large number of fishermen disappeared from the industry.

A Danish pilot study in 2015 identifies the trends seen

in the causes of fishermen leaving the industry today. Most

of the fishermen suffer their terminations involuntarily

– “pushed” out of a profession that they have been happy

with. Poor finances and a shortage of credit, low fish prices,

and frustration with current regulations and how control is

handled in combination with the causal factors specified

have had the greatest impact on their withdrawal from the

profession. Among the assistants and the younger fisher-

men, “pull” factors are dominating their choice of other

work. A Swedish study in 1987 showed that musculoskel-

etal problems frequently appeared as the reason for quitting.

A similar picture did not exist in 2015 among Danish ex-

fishermen. A probable explanation is that the work environ-

ment in the fishing industry has been significantly improved

during the past ten years. The pilot study also showed that

ex-fishermen are dedicated to the sea. Virtually all are sub-

sequently employed within the maritime field, and most

would like to return if the situation in fisheries improves.

Realistically they have their doubts about this, or are not

confident that it will ever happen.

Jørgen Møller Christiansen (f. 1948)

Cand. psych., specialist i arbejds- og organisationspsy-

kologi. Siden 2012 seniorforsker ved Center for Maritim

Sundhed og Samfund, Syddansk Universitet. Tidligere ar-

bejdslivsforsker ved bl.a. Center for Alternativ Samfunds-

analyse, RUC og Århus Universitet. Har publiceret et stort

antal rapporter, samt artikler og bøger om emner inden for

arbejdsmiljø, arbejdsliv og det maritime felt.