Regional comparisons of commercial fishing fatalities in the United States were carried out. Data for 1980 to 1988 (9 years (yr)) were obtained from the National Traumatic Occupational Fatality program. During this period, 517 commercial fisher men and women lost their lives (90 fatalities for every 100,000), 369 (72%) of which were by drowning. The overall trend remained fairly constant for the 9yr period. Some fisheries were more risky than others. Of the 517 fatalities, over 25% died in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and Pacific West Coast regions. The North Atlantic, Hawaii, and Great Lakes area accounted for a substantially smaller proportion. Alaska far outranked every other state for occupational fatalities in commercial fishery (126 deaths), and 77% of these were by drowning. It also had the highest number of nonresident fisher fatalities, which varied with the season. Hawaii also had a high percentage of nonresident fish fatalities. All regions excluding these two states reported about 5% the national average. The nonresident fishers killed in Alaskan waters were on average younger than resident Alaskan fishers killed. Multiple fatalities were also higher in the Alaska region (average 4.3 deaths), whereas Hawaii reported an average of three, and the other states an average less than three. Fishing vessel incidents, which included sinkings, capsizings, and collisions accounted for 227 deaths. Again, Alaska reported the highest number (76) of these fatalities, and 78% of the 97 drownings in Alaska were vessel related. In Oregon, 88% of drownings were vessel related, but in the other regions the proportion dropped to 23% (Great Lakes region). Falls overboard were the leading cause of drownings in the North Atlantic region (29%), and in the Gulf of Mexico (35%). Nationwide, the second leading cause of death was acute traumatic injury. The author concludes that Alaskan commercial fishers are at elevated risk of fatal injury by drowning, with vessel related deaths being common.
Proceedings of the National Fishing Industry Safety and Health Workshop, Anchorage, Alaska, October 9-11, 1992