COMMERCIAL FISHING SAFETY

Regional Analysis

A NIOSH review of commercial fishing fatalities from 2000-2009 identified the most hazardous fishing regions and fisheries around the United States. NIOSH divided the country into four major fishing regions: Alaska, West Coast, East Coast, and the Gulf of Mexico to better highlight regional hazards to commercial fishermen. NIOSH recently conducted some regional analysis in the Hawaii/Pacific region as well. Based on the overall number of fatalities during 2000-2009, the East Coast had the most fatalities followed by Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and the West Coast.

U.S. Commercial Fishing Fatalities by Region 2000-2009 (504 Total*)

U.S. Commercial Fishing Fatalities by Region 2000-2009 (504 Total)

*Includes 6 fatalities that occurred in Hawaii, and 1 fatality that occurred on a US commercial fishing vessel transiting Canadian waters

The most hazardous fisheries in the U.S. based on overall number of fatalities from 2000-2009 are:

  • Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery with 55 fatalities
  • Atlantic scallop fishery with 44 fatalities
  • Alaska salmon fishery with 39 fatalities
  • Northeast multispecies groundfish fishery with 26 fatalities
  • Alaska cod fishery with 26 fatalities
  • West Coast Dungeness crab fishery with 25 fatalities
  • Alaska sole fishery with 21 fatalities

NIOSH has contracted with the Natural Resource Consultants, Inc. to establish workforce estimates (Full Time Equivalents, FTE) for individual fisheries across the US when data are available to make these estimates. The most hazardous fisheries in the U.S. based on fatality rates from 2000-2009 are:

  • Northeast multispecies groundfish fishery, 600 fatalities per 100,000 FTEs
  • Atlantic scallop fishery, 425 fatalities per 100,000 FTEs
  • West Coast Dungeness crab fishery, 310 fatalities per 100,000 FTEs

 

Table 1: Commercial fishing fatalities and fatality rates* for full-time equivalent (FTE) employee, by fishery type – United States, 2000-2009
Fishery Fatalities FTE Annual rate per 100,000 FTEs
Groundfish      
   Northeast multispecies groundfish 26 4,340 600
   Atlantic snapper/grouper 6 3,622 170
   Alaska halibut 10 7,519 130
   Alaska cod 26 21,327 120
   Alaska sole 21
   Gulf of Mexico snapper/grouper 10  
Shellfish      
   Atlantic scallop§ 44 10,384 425
   West Coast Dungeness crab 25 8,092 310
   Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab 12 4,658 260
   Gulf of Mexico shrimp 55
   Northeast lobster 18
   Gulf of Mexico oyster 11
Pelagic fish      
   Alaska salmon 39 34,287 115
   West Coast tribal salmon 10
Other fisheries** 165
Unspecified 26

* Rates were calculated by dividing the total number of fatalities for the 10-year period by total annual FTEs.
 Unknown
§ Includes the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.
 Excludes two Washington tribal crab fatalities, which are not included in the FTE count.
** Fisheries with <10 fatalities each.

These data illustrate that occupational risk factors vary by region and fishery.  Intervention programs should focus on fleet-specific hazards that lead to injuries.  Interventions need to be tailored to specific fisheries, with an emphasis on the prevention of vessel disasters in the Northeast multispecies groundfish fishery, the Atlantic scallop fleet, and the West Coast Dungeness crab fleet. Additional efforts also need to focus on preventing falls overboard particularly among Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishermen and increasing PFD usage among all crew members.

For more detail on these findings please refer to the published report in the July 16, 2010 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). For details on a particular fishing region, please refer to regional profiles published by NIOSH that summarize fatal occupational injuries, unique risk factors, and recommendations for each region.

Page last reviewed: June 8, 2015