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The dangers faced by commercial fishing industry workers

The commercial fishing industry has taken a terrible hit recently. The industry has lost a great amount of sales as restaurants close, so there are few places to sell the flounder, sea bass and mackerel caught off Long Island.

However, as essential workers providing food to nations around the world, fisherman continue to work in what is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Traumatic injury and death are among the job hazards that commercial fishermen face.

America’s second-most dangerous job

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fishermen and related fishing workers had the second most dangerous job in America in 2018. The industry recorded 30 fatalities that year. In a closer look at the numbers, a total of 77.4 fatal injuries were reported per 100,000 full-time workers in the commercial fishing industry. Only workers in the logging industry had a more dangerous job with 97.6 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time workers.

Other statistics from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) uncover additional information. During a five-year period from 2010 to 2014, a total of 60 commercial fishing deaths from traumatic injury occurred in East Coast fisheries. Here is a breakdown of those fatalities:

  • Vessel disasters (22): Situations in which crews must abandon ship. Examples include sinkings, capsizings, fires and groundings.
  • Falls overboard (22): Crew members drowned after falling overboard, and none wore personal flotation devices. Gear entanglements caused by gear entanglements.
  • Onboard fatalities (7): Two of the fatalities were due to drug overdoses, and one was a suicide. The other deaths were attributed crew members entangled in equipment, struck by equipment and one person who sustained fatal injuries after a vessel struck a channel marker.
  • Diving (5): Crew members died after injured in diving incidents.
  • Onshore injuries (4): They included two crew members falling from docks and two drownings in hand-harvesting situations.

The current economic hardships within the commercial fishing industry just do not compare with the hardships families face when a loved one dies in a fishing-related accident. This will always be a dangerous occupation, but the people who work within it understand the risks.

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