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Understanding & preventing lobsterman entanglement: a preliminary survey.

Backus AS; Smith TJ; Brochu PK; Lincoln JM; Conway GA; Bensyl D; Ciampa JR
Proc Mar Saf Counc 2001 Apr-Jun; 58(2):50-53
Commercial fishing has been recognized as a hazardous occupation for centuries. Sir Walter Scott wrote in .The Antiquary,"It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives." The working conditions for commercial fishermen are very dangerous and factors associated with commercial fishing deaths are complex. Gear type, fatigue, and environmental conditions contribute to the severity and frequency of these incidents. By the mid-1980s, hazards in the commercial fishing industry captured the attention of Congress, which enacted the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act of 1988. During 1990-1995, the CFIVSA required fishing vessels to begin carrying specific safety and survival equipment. It also required certain crewmembers to have training in first aid and how to conduct emergency drills on fishing boats. However, deck safety was not addressed by these regulations. Between 1993-1997, the average number of lobster licenses of all classes issued annually by the Department of Marine Resources in Maine was 5,681 . The occupational fatality rate for lobstermen was 14 per 100,000 licensed lobstermen , more than 2.5 times the national average for all industries (4.8 per 100,000) Between 1993-1999, seven lobstermen drowned after falling overboard. Conditions on the boats suggested that trap rope entanglement was a likely cause5 . Anecdotal reports indicate that the prevalence of the entanglement of lobstermen in trap rope is high. When they become entangled in trap rope, they can be pulled into the water and often are not able to free themselves from the rope. Lobsters are fished by placing a baited, rectangular mesh trap (size: 0.5 m by 0.5 m by 1.0 m, and weighing 2-4 kg) on the sea bottom (5-20 meters deep) connected to a surface buoy by a "trap rope." Up to 10 traps may be connected to the same rope. Traps are periodically pulled into a boat using a winch (pot hauler), the trapped lobsters are removed, and the trap is cleaned of debris and rebaited. This study was undertaken to gather data on the prevalence of personal entanglement in trap rope, to understand the work practices associated with entanglement, and to learn from fishermen what work practices and engineering controls would 1) reduce the risk of entanglement, 2) help lobstermen escape from an entanglement, and 3) facilitate reboarding in the event that a lobsterman was pulled overboard from an entanglement.
Fishing industry; Injuries; Injury prevention; Accident prevention; Accidents; Traumatic injuries; Engineering controls; Control technology
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Proceedings of the Marine Safety Council
Page last reviewed: June 15, 2021
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division