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What is Professionalization? 
Professionalization is the recognition of the special skills and experience required to become a Professional Fish Harvester. Professionalization involves bestowing professional status on fish harvesters who have a long-term attachment to fishing and setting qualifying standards for new entrants to the industry.


Why is Professionalization Important? 
Professionalization identifies and recognizes those key, bonafide, full-time fish harvesters with attachment to and investment in the fishery. The primary advantage of having fishing acknowledged as a career is to provide stability and recognition to harvesters as they complete standardized levels of training and experience. Professionalization is the first step in securing the harvesters role in the fishery of the future. Professional Fish Harvesters will have to play a greater role in the management of the fishing industry. In any occupation, the receiving of professional status can give an individual a sense of pride, achievement and security.


How Does Professionalization Work?

Existing fish harvesters were "grandparented" to the appropriate certification levels following the introduction of professionalization. The grandfathering process was based on a fish harvester's historic attachment (number of years of full time fishing) to the fishery and his/her dependence on the industry (fishing income during the season). New entrants to the industry must register under the sponsorship of a recognized professional skipper. Fish harvesters are able to advance from one level to the next based on the completion of a defined number of years of full-time fishing activity and the accumulation of a specific number of land-based education credits.


What is the difference between Level II and Core?

Level II refers to a fish harvester’s personal certification level. The PFHCB’s three levels of certification (Apprentice, Level I and Level II) replaced DFO’s personal fishing registration system (part-time and full-time) in 1997. 

Core, on the other hand, refers to the status of a commercial fishing enterprise which holds key species licences. The term Core (and Non-Core) was established by DFO in 1996 to refer to the status of a fishing enterprise, following a review of all existing enterprises. 

For example, we could say "John Doe is a Level II fisherman, and he is owner/operator of a Core fishing enterprise".


How do I become Level II? 
All Apprentice and Level I harvesters require a combination of full-time fishing years and land-based education credits in order to move to Level II. 

Full-time Fishing Years - Before attaining Level II stat
us, a harvester must have fished full-time for a minimum of five years. 

Land-based Education Credits - Harvesters who entered the fishery from 1998 onward require 120 education credits in order to reach Level II, whereas harvesters who fished full-time prior to 1998 may require less credits. These credits can be attained through the completion of recognized courses/programs, with one credit usually being equal to one day of training. 

For more information on the requirements for Level II contact the PFHCB at 722-8170.


How do I get a Core enterprise? 
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is the authority responsible for all issues and policy related to Core enterprises/federal species licences. 

Currently, the only way to get a Core enterprise is to receive the transfer of an existing Core enterprise. For example, if a Core enterprise owner is retiring, his/her Core enterprise can be transferred to an eligible fish harvester. DFO requires that a harvester be certified as a Level II professional fish harvester in order to receive the transfer of a Core enterprise. 

For more information on DFO licencing policy, including eligibility requirements for the transfer of a Core enterprise, contact your local DFO office.


Why is there a 75% fishing income requirement? 
Without clear-cut criteria, it would be impossible for the Board to distinguish between full-time professional fish harvesters, and those individuals whose primary employment is outside the fishery, but who use the industry to source its benefits. Therefore, fish harvesters themselves recommended the 75% income requirement as part of the professionalization criteria. This 75% rule, (which has been used by provincial and federal government departments in relation to the fishery for many years) was agreed to by fish harvesters as a means to identify and protect full-time harvesters.


How does the 75% income requirement work? 
This criterion requires fish harvesters to earn 75% of their earned income from fishing during the fishing season. The fishing season is normally defined as April 1st to September 1st (with a 30 day grace period). Earned income does not include EI, business income, rental income, investment income, workers compensation, pension income, etc. This rule does not prevent or discourage full-time fish harvesters from seeking employment outside their fishing season, or from investing in business opportunities. There is provision for the Board to consider extenuating circumstances while implementing the 75% rule and there is also provision for fish harvesters to ap
ply for a leave of absence from fishing, for up to two years, to work outside the fishery.


What if I don’t meet the 75% requirement? 
New entrants, who are required to show a primary commitment to the industry, must meet the 75% income requirement in order to be eligible for certification renewal. Harvesters who have been fishing full-time for any number of years will only be denied certification if they go more than two years without meeting the 75% requirement.

What are some examples of land-based credits and how are they applied?

Credits are applied based on a combination of relevancy to the fishing industry and duration of the training. A limited number of credits are awarded for training that is not directly related to the fishing industry.


Fish Harvesters seeking certification upgrading, are encouraged and expected to complete fishing related training. Completion of fishery and marine related training ensures you will have the knowledge and skills to succeed.


The list below is an overview of some of the more commonly received types of training/education and the credits allocated. Please note this is not a full comprehensive list. Proof of completion for training/education that is not listed below is also accepted and will be assessed for credit.

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Am I required to do a Marine Emergency Duties (MED) course? 
The simple answer is YES. Transport Canada (under Section 21 of the Crewing Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act) requires all fish harvesters to have a Marine Emergency D
uties (MED) certificate.


Additionally, the PFHCB certification criteria requires all new entrants and Apprentices to complete a basic safety course (MED A3 or A1) prior to registering for their second fishing season.  

For the information of fish harvesters who have completed MED courses in the past, there is normally no expiration date on a MED certificate. However, if you cannot locate your certificate, it is recommended that you contact the training institution where the course was completed.


Which Marine Emergency Duties (MED) course do I require? 
The MED course that you require is based on your voyage distance, as follows: 

MED A1 - All fish harvesters on fishing vessels making voyages beyond 25 miles are required to complete MED A1. 

MED A3 - All fish harvesters on fishing vessels making voyages no more than 25 miles can complete MED A3 in lieu of MED A1. Either is acceptable. 

How can I get more information on Marine Emergency Duties (MED) training? 
Information regarding the Transport Canada Marine Emergency Duties (MED) requirement or MED A1 or A3 training is available from: 

Marine Institute of Memorial University

Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board

Transport Canada - Marine Safety Offices
Corner Brook 709-637-4390
Lewisporte 709-535-2503
St. John’s 709-772-5167 


What is a Fishing Master IV certificate?
A Fishing Master IV (FM IV) certificate is a Transport Canada designation aimed at producing capable and competent fishing vessel operators. 

Entry requirements for the FM IV program include a marine medical and 12 months sea-service on a fishing vessel not less than 5 gross tons. The FM IV curriculum provides fish harvesters with basic knowledge and skills in the safe and competent operation, loading and navigation of a fishing vessel. It includes training in Chartwork & Pilotage, Navigation Instruments, Navigation Safety, General Seamanship, Marine Radio Operation, Marine Emergency Duties (MED A1), and First Aid. 

Candidates who complete the training, and who pass the required Transport Canada written and oral examinations receive the designation as Fishing Master IV - the first in a series of four Fishing Master certificates; IV, III, II and I. 


Why is a Fishing Master IV certificate valuable to have?
A Fishing Masters IV certificate is an internationally recognized designation issued by Transport Canada. It enables the certificate holder to operate (as Master or First Mate) any Canadian fishing vessel up to 100 gross tons, fishing in Canadian waters (inside 200 miles/continental shelf), or as Second Mate on international voyages. 

It is currently a Transport Canada requirement that all fishing vessels greater than 15 gross tons (or vessels fishing outside 25 nautical miles) are required to have a certified master with a minimum of FM IV. As a result, the certificate creates career opportunities for fish harvesters in both the inshore and offshore fisheries. 

Additionally, the PFHCB awards 80 education credits for a FM IV, enabling certificate holders to upgrade their PFH certification level from Apprentice to Level I, or from Level I to Level II. 


Where and when are Fishing Master IV courses offered?
In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Marine Institute (MI) is the only training institute offering the Fishing Masters IV program. MI offers the FM IV at their main campus in St. John's, as well as in fishing communities throughout the province and a number of courses are available to be taken online. 

There are usually courses beginning in the Fall and again in the Winter at main campus.  For those interested in community-based offerings, MI will deliver the FM IV in any community with a minimum of 12 confirmed participants. Start dates for community-based offerings are generally more flexible and course duration is 12 weeks.  The schedule for upcoming courses can be found at

Any individual or group interesting in receiving more information on the FM IV program, or any other fishing/marine related training, can contact the Marine Institute (toll free) 1-800-563-5799, (709) 778-0623 or via email


What is CrewFinder?

The Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board (PFHCB) has an online service for all fish harvesters looking for crew members or looking to be a crew member.  The site is very "user friendly" and can be accessed by just clicking on CrewFinder on our web page at  The PFHCB is looking forward to continuing this service to help connect crew members and owner/operators.


Some quotes from harvesters who participated in CrewFinder are:


"I though it was a great idea.  I had a lot of calls for positions as a captain or mate, with the Fishing Master's ticket that I have. Keep it up!"

"CrewFinder was very useful to me, I had 3 different calls for position as skipper.  I would definitely use CrewFinder again."

"I was very successful in finding a good group of people to fish with."

"I believe that when people become more familiar with CrewFinder they will find it very beneficial."


We are very pleased that CrewFinder has helped harvesters obtain positions and that positions were filled.


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