Commercial Fishermen Wage Claims

Commercial fishing is a unique and dangerous profession with a long history in US and international waters. A fisherman’s workplace is different than most, and because of the nature of the industry, most fishermen are paid differently than a typical employee. The term “lay share” denotes a share of profits given to a worker in lieu of wages.

Many fishermen are paid a lay share of the vessel’s catch, and as a form of seamen’s wages, a fisherman’s lay share is governed by federal law. Depending on the size of the vessel, the owner or operator of a vessel must have written fishing agreement with each crewmember employed on the vessel that specifies, among other things, the terms of compensation. If a fisherman is not paid or is not paid his full share of wages, the law provides special remedies. For a short period after the sale of fish, a fisherman can file a lien against the vessel itself for unpaid shares or wages. This provides extra security for fishermen to ensure that they receive full compensation for their hard work. If the requirement of a written fishing agreement is ignored and no such contract exits, an unpaid fisherman may be able to recover the highest rate of compensation agreed to at the port of engagement, regardless of any oral agreement as to the terms of compensation. While the laws governing fishermen’s wages provide extra protection for fishermen, fishermen often have only a short period of time to file a claim and benefit from these laws. If you are a commercial fisherman and believe you have not been paid in full, contact us right away.