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since 1970

Fishing ranks as the nation’s second deadliest industry

Commercial fishing has long ranked among the nation’s most dangerous industries, and that still holds true today.

A CNBC survey of the ten deadliest careers, released at the end of 2019, once again found commercial fishing ranked right near the top. This time, it took the number two spot. And this begs the question: What makes fishing so dangerous?

Seven facts about the risks facing commercial fishermen

CNBC offered a summary of the dangers fishermen commonly face, but it’s rather generic and may be somewhat dissatisfying. They note that fishing can lead to accidents that “involve boat accidents or falls from boats.” They go on to note that the days are long, and the work is hard.

If you’re looking for a better picture of the dangers you could face while fishing, you might prefer the information presented by an article in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Its authors reviewed more than a decade’s worth of data and found:

  • U.S. fishermen suffered an average of 38 work-related deaths per year.
  • Deckhands suffered half of all fatalities.
  • Vessel disasters were the leading cause of fatalities at 43%. These included ships that capsized or that suffered enough damage the crew needed to flee.
  • Falls overboard were the second leading cause of fatalities at 30%.
  • Severe weather led to the largest share of vessel disasters. After that, most vessel disasters resulted from the instability caused by overloading.
  • The leading causes of falls overboard were working alone and the consumption of alcohol or drugs.
  • Fishermen along the West Coast (16%) are half as likely to suffer fatalities as those along the East Coast (32%).

These statistics led the researchers and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to a couple key conclusions:

  • Ship owners need to pay more attention to the stability and integrity of their vessels.
  • Crew should make sure they have access to adequate safety vests and other safety gear—and then make proper use of them.

Of course, you can only do what’s in your power to control. You can wear your safety vest and follow your safety protocols while on deck. But that won’t stop your ship from sinking if the hull has rotted. When your injuries—or those of someone you love—owe to the unseaworthiness of a vessel or to an employer’s negligence, you may have cause to file a claim.

Understanding maritime claims

Most employees benefit from workers’ comp, but their claims depend on state laws that don’t apply at sea. Fishermen and other maritime workers generally want to work with maritime attorneys to seek recovery under the Jones Act or other maritime laws.