Photo credit: M. Marschke.

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While work on the ocean has always been difficult and dangerous – long working hours, slipping on decks, bites or cuts from handling fish, drowning, and exhaustion — most of what we know is from European fisheries or from extreme cases of labour abuse that the media and advocacy organizations have reported, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.  We know much less about the everyday working conditions of fish workers, particularly across the global South.  Our study provides one case example.  We use the idea of precarity, which refers to unstable, insecure work, to examine two types of fishing found in Jamaica: pot fishing and dive fishing.  We look at how crew arrange their work, what they think about their working conditions, and how overfishing and climate shifts impact their work.  While we found that men generally appreciated their work, and did not hear of any violence on boats, interviewees also reported how demanding, risky and unpredictable fish work can be.  Men sleep in the elements, basic health and safety equipment is lacking, and fish stocks are variable. Fish work is impacted by overfishing and climate change, which enhances the challenges found in this job.  Additionally, certain fishing activities are far riskier than others, particularly in the case of compressor divers where illness and death from poor equipment or lack of treatment for decompression sickness is a real challenge.