Like many fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador, Justin Melvin learned the trade from his father and grandfather. His grandfather worked on offshore vessels years ago, and his father, Peter, has been with Ocean Choice International since the company was founded in 2000. His brother Jarrett also works on an Ocean Choice vessel. As the third generation to work on an offshore vessel, Justin feels at home on the water and says he just can’t see himself doing anything else.
Justin works for Ocean Choice as a Trawl Boss, also referred to as Bosun, on board the Katsheshuk II. He’s been with the company for 16 years and has overseen the deck, gear, and deck-crew for 13 years. Justin has seven other crew members reporting to him at any given time while he is signed on to the vessel, and works directly with the Captain regarding fishing operations and safety practices. Justin is responsible for the maintenance of the fishing and deck gear, keeping an accurate inventory of deck supplies, as well as compiling and placing vessel orders for fishing gear. While skills such as mending twine would have been familiar to almost every worker in rural Newfoundland and Labrador 50 years ago, such skills have are becoming a lost trade. So, on-the-job-training is where Justin and the other deck crew hone their skills.
While life at sea is in Justin’s blood, his at home life was an important part of his decision to work in the industry. Working on a rotation of approximately 4 weeks at sea, followed by 4 weeks at home, Justin has ample time to spend doing other things he enjoys outdoors: hunting, cutting wood, and trouting — interests he hopes to pass down to his son.
The at-sea job also allows him to live in Bauline, a small town of fewer than 500 people, where he was raised. In fact, Justin, his wife Rebecca, and their young son Robert live next door to his parents. His son can run across the garden to visit his grandparents.
Justin’s career in the offshore fishery provides year-round employment. It’s a guaranteed steady income, without the uncertainty of seasonal work. When asked about the importance of year-round job security compared to seasonal employment opportunities, Justin says job stability and steady income are incredibly important for young people assessing career options. Who knows? Maybe Justin’s son, Robert, will be the next generation of the Melvin’s to work in the offshore fishery!