USCG Calls Off Search for Commercial Fisherman

The 13th District of the U.S. Coast Guard has issued a news release advising that it has reluctantly called off the search for a commercial fisherman who was said to have fallen overboard. This decision was made after much deliberation and consideration, following a massive search covering over 91 square miles.

The accident occurred at roughly 1:30 a.m. northwest of Queets River, when a 56 year old fisherman fell overboard from the commercial fishing vessel SENJA. The weather at the time indicated there were six foot waves and a water temperature of 48 degrees. It was reported that the crewman was not wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) at the time he fell overboard.

The USCG recommends that all crew members of commercial fishing vessels wear PFDs at all times when they are at sea. If not, it is very difficult to locate them and it is also very difficult to put a PFD on them during an emergency situation. As in this case, if a crew member falls overboard without a PFD their chance of survival is greatly reduced.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) has repeatedly reported that the job of a commercial fisherman is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. One of the major causes of death among fishermen is drowning. Unfortunately, OSH statistics confirm that many fishermen die because they are not wearing PFDs when they fall overboard.

The largest number of commercial fishing casualties occur when the vessel capsizes, sinks, founders, runs aground or is involved in a collision. Regardless of the cause, the survival statistics are overwhelming for fishermen who enter the water. Only 12% of the fishermen survive going overboard without a PFD, compared to a 63% survival rate for those wearing one. According to OSH data, over 70% of the deaths of commercial fishermen were due to drowning.

Severe weather conditions and instability on the deck of a commercial fishing vessel make the job hazardous. Often the hazards are enhanced due to the lack of railing and safety lines that interfere with their work. Many old timers, as well as others, refuse to wear PFDs because they feel it interferes with their performance.

Those who fall overboard are subjected to ice cold water and risk hypothermia. This causes loss of muscle coordination, shivering, unconsciousness and sometimes death. However, there is a significantly better chance of rescuing a fisherman wearing a PFD; and a highly trained crew and captain can revive victims who have been in the cold water for 30 minutes or more.

Even though all commercial fishing vessels are required to be equipped with one survival suit or a wearable PFD properly sized for each person on board, accidents still happen and they will continue to occur.

If you or someone you know has been injured on a commercial fishing vessel or lost a loved one who fell overboard, you need to seek advice from a Seattle lawyer who is experienced in maritime law.

Seattle Maritime Attorneys John Merriam and Gordon Webb have roughly 50 years of collective experience handling maritime and admiralty cases. In addition to having a proven record of success, we have actual experience of working at sea for approximately 15 years ourselves. We are friends to seamen.

Contact us online or call us direct at our Bellevue office (425.454.3800) or our Seattle office (206.729.5252). If you like, you can reach us at our toll free number 877.800.1007.

Remember, with us there is no fee unless we get you a settlement.

Other Resources:

News Release: UPDATE: Coast Guard suspends search for missing fisherman near Queets River, Wash., January 16, 2013

Preventing Drownings of Commercial Fishermen
, CDC/OSH Publications

Client Reviews
John has helped me get my pay. He REALLY went up to bat for me, I can't recommend him highly enough. Jamie
There are very few people I trust in this world but John Merriam is at the top of my list he not only is a man of outstanding character and morals as well as honest but he truly cares about his clients well being and situation… Matthew
I lost most of my vision from an accident at sea. Gordon handled my case with motivation and haste that I could imagine would have been the way he would have handled it if it had been him who was injured. I was ver impressed by how much he cared and especially his work ethic. Andrew
Gordon helped me and family get through a very hard time. I was severely injured, and Gordon was able to settle my case for more than i was hoping for. If anything else happens he will be the first person I call. Kerrey
I very much appreciated the sense of urgency that Gordon Webb demonstrated as he handled my case. Emails and phone calls were returned almost instantly, questions were answered and solutions were offered. Gordon's firm came highly recommended and I am very pleased that I made the right choice to hire him. Maureen