COMMERCIAL FISHING SAFETY

A commercial crab fisherman reaches for a swinging line while working on a stack of crab pots in Dutch Harbor, AK.

Other Hazards

Vessel disasters, falls overboard, and on-deck injuries account for 92% of fatalities to commercial fishermen in the United States between 2000 and 2014. The remaining 8% of fatal injuries in that time period can be split into two areas: diving injuries (5%) and on-shore injuries (3%)

Diving Injuries

Though only accounting for 5% of commercial fishing fatalities in the last 15 years, these types of accidents happen with regularity among fishermen engaged in dive fisheries. Between 2000 and 2014, 34 fishermen died while participating in dive fisheries. The most common causes of death were: running out of air (7), equipment malfunction (4), and entanglement (4). Some recommendations for preparing for work in a dive fishery include:

  • Don’t dive alone and try to find an experienced partner and/or tender.
  • Make sure you are using the proper gear for your environment and type of fishing.
  • Conduct emergency drills – become familiar with bailout and other emergency procedures
  • Complete diving training or certification
  • Follow established diving standards

On-Shore Injuries

This is the smallest category of fatalities in the NIOSH analysis of commercial fishing deaths and includes falls from the dock into the water and drowning while working on-shore fisheries (for example, setnet and clam harvesting), and exposure to chemical hazards (H2S).

Resources for Preventing Diving and On-Shore Injuries

Diving Safety

Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA)external icon – Provides training on recreational and seafood harvesting diving safety in Alaska.

Divers Alert Network (DAN)external icon – Largest association of recreational scuba divers in the world.

Dive Harvesting

Alaska Department of Fish and Gameexternal icon – Regulates dive harvesting in the state of Alaska

Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Associationexternal icon – Economic development non-profit representing harvest divers in Southeast Alaska

Other Hazards

NIOSH Fall Protection Topic Page

NIOSH Confined Space Safety Topic Page

NIOSH Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) Topic Page

NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards

Page last reviewed: June 8, 2015