The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a division of the Center for Disease Control, recently published studies on the fatality rates for the commercial fishing industry for the past decade. The reports confirmed that commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States from 2000 – 2010. As many of our clients will attest, many commercial fishing operations are characterized by hazardous working conditions, strenuous labor, long work hours and harsh weather. These demanding work environments can result in grave consequences. Sadly, there were 545 fatalities between 2000 – 2010.

Regarding the activities underway / causes of death, the percentages were as follows:

– 51% occurred after a vessel disaster
– 31% fatalities occurred when a fisherman fell overboard
– 10% fatalities resulted from an injury onboard
– 7% fatalities occurred while diving or from onshore injuries

Regarding the geographic breakdown, the percentages were as follows (for 2000 – 2009):

– 33% East Coast
– 26% Alaska
– 23% Gulf of Mexico
– 16% West Coast
– 2% Hawaii and U.S. vessels in Canadian waters

By year, the number of commercial fishing fatalities in the United States ranged from 41 – 61 per year. This figure marks an improvement from the 1990s when the annual deaths ranged from 48 – 96 per year. Overall, the annual figures have been decreasing since 1992. While the trend is promising, the numbers remain unsettling.