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Pending oyster season brings with it a focus on safety

The recent global health crisis poses numerous challenges to many business areas. The oyster industry is under threat because a majority of their customers are restaurants, which serve this tasty and desirable food. Many of these restaurants have either closed or experienced a lot less foot traffic due to social distancing and the health crisis.

Still, there is a market for oysters, and the oyster season is upon us. Typically, the best oyster harvests occur in the colder months from September through February when the shellfish is leaner, firmer and tastier. But the season does extend into spring. Regardless, there are many dangers associated with the commercial fishing for oysters along the East Coast.

Dangers occur in oyster industry

Oyster fisherman work in many East Coast states, including Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. We know that fishermen work in the one of the most dangerous industries, too.

From 2010 to 2014, the oyster harvesting industry recorded the third most deaths among the East Coast commercial fishing segment. During that five-year period, the region’s fishing industry recorded 60 deaths. The lobster industry had the most with 10, followed by Atlantic scallop industry with six and Atlantic oyster industry with five. Of the five deaths among oyster fisherman, three were attributed to fatal vessel disasters, and one each due to fatal fall overboard and onshore fatality.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has long stressed following safety measures and improved marine safety training within the commercial fishing industry. The agency also recommends regular emergency drills and other efforts to prevent vessel disasters, collisions and the snagging of equipment on the ocean floor. And since none of the fishermen who fell overboard and drowned wore personal flotation devices, it is a logical idea to require them to wear one.

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