NIOSH Statistics Confirm the Dangers of Commercial Fishing

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has compiled statistics which confirm what we already knew. Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. The combination of long hours of work without rest, strenuous labor, extreme weather conditions and hazardous working conditions are a recipe for catastrophic injuries and the loss of lives.

Between 2000 and 2010, there was an annual average of 46 deaths (124 deaths per 100,000 workers), compared to an average of 5,466 deaths (4 per 100,000 workers) among all workers in the United States.

The seafood harvesting industry is huge and demand is increasing. There were more than eight billion pounds of seafood harvested in the U.S. during 2008, generating earnings in excess of $4.4 billion. Some 115,000 commercial fishermen make up this group of harvesters, using a variety of fishing vessels and gear. Some of the most sought after species that make up this multi-billion dollar business, includes Pacific salmon, shrimp, Pollock and lobster.

According to the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Incident Database (CFID), the breakdown of commercial fishing deaths between 2000 and 2010 revealed the following:

• 545 commercial fishermen lost their lives in America

• 279 or 51% of all deaths occurred following a vessel disaster

• 170 or 31% of all deaths occurred after a fisherman had fallen overboard

• 56 or 10% of all deaths were caused by an injury onboard

• 40 or 7% of all deaths were caused by diving or injuries onshore

Of the 279 fatalities occurring on 148 different vessel disasters, 61% were caused by extreme weather conditions, 28% were due to flooding, 19% were due to vessel instability and 18% were due to being hit by a large wave. Interestingly, 90 or 57% of the 170 fatalities caused by falling overboard were not witnessed. Even more distressing is the fact that none of the 170 victims who lost their lives after falling overboard were wearing a personal floatation device (PFD).

In the West Coast Region alone, there were 86 commercial fishing fatalities between 2000 and 2009. Nearly 70% of all fatalities were due to some sort of vessel disaster necessitating the crew to abandon their ship. Roughly 24% of the fatalities were due to falls overboard and the other 6% were the result of onboard injuries, onshore injuries or diving.

If you or someone you know has suffered catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of dangers associated with being commercial fishermen, you need to talk to a Washington attorney experienced in maritime and admiralty matters.

Seattle Maritime Attorneys John Merriam and Gordon Webb know how dangerous making your living as a commercial fisherman is. We can help you receive compensation for maintenance and cure, which is similar to workers' compensation benefits for employees injured on land. With roughly 50 years of combined experience, we have handled cases from the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf of Mexico and the Bering Sea.

Contact us
through our website or call our toll free number at (877) 800-1007 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation. We handle cases on a contingency basis, which means your will never owe us a fee unless we make a recovery for you.

Other Resources:

NIOSH - Commercial Fishing Safety

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