Anchorage, AK: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2014-126, 2014 May; :1-14
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the federal government agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. Commercial fishing is consistently one of the most dangerous occupations in the US, with a rate of 117 fatalities per 100,000 workers reported during 2012, 36 times higher than the average workplace fatality rate of 3.2 per 100,000 [BLS 2013]. NIOSH maintains the Commercial Fishing Incident Database (CFID) and has published a series of reports on commercial fishing fatalities from 2000 to 2009 in four US regions: Alaska, West Coast, East Coast, and the Gulf of Mexico [NIOSH 2010a, b,c,d]. These reports outline the hazards of particular fisheries located within the regions and highlight the need to create interventions that focus on problems found in these specific fleets. However, these reports do not include the US Distant Water Tuna Fleet (DWTF), which operates far from the US West Coast in the Pacific Ocean. The Distant Water Tuna Fleet (also known as the US Purse Seine Fleet) is licensed under the South Pacific Tuna Act of 1988, which has since been amended and reaffirmed [16 USC1 973]. The number of vessels operating in the fleet has increased from 14 in 2006 to a total of 39 vessels operating in 2012. Compared with other US commercial fishing catcher vessels, the DWTF vessels are the largest in terms of both vessel size (average length: 214.5 ft, range: 174-260 ft) and number of crew (28 members average, range: 20-40). The fleet is also the only US fishing fleet allowed to have licensed foreign officers (other than the master) to occupy key leadership positions such as that of mate and chief engineer on the vessel [CGMTA 2006]. Since March 2007, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have submitted annual reports to Congress on the activities of the DWTF, as required by the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006 (Public Law 109-241, Section 421). These reports enumerate active vessels, fish landings (amount of fish caught), foreign crew officer exemptions, and known vessel disasters and fatalities [Department of Homeland Security, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013]. In 2012, the USCG asked NIOSH to conduct a systematic review of DWTF fatal and non-fatal traumatic injuries similar to the regional analyses of other US fleets previously mentioned in order to make a baseline assessment, compare mortality rates with other US fisheries, and to provide recommendations to prevent future injuries and fatalities.