COMMERCIAL FISHING SAFETY

Intermediate Outcomes

The NIOSH Commercial Fishing Safety Research Program is dedicated to providing our stakeholders high quality, relevant information that has direct impact on the safety of fishermen around the United States. The program’s research has been used by the industry, government agencies, and fishing safety advocates to inform policy decisions and, educate workers about the safety hazards and solutions evaluated in the research. These intermediate outcomes provide examples of how NIOSH research is translated to practice by our stakeholders.

Impacts made by the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Safety Research Program:

The NIOSH Commercial Fishing Safety Research Program affects National Policy.

  • In November 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released recommendations to the US Coast Guard to improve commercial fishing safety in the United States. NIOSH testimony during the NTSB Fishing Vessel Safety Forum in October 2010 was cited extensively for the foundation of these recommendations. The NTSB invited NIOSH to sit on three expert panels during the Fishing Vessel Safety Forum. The goals of the forum were (1) to identify safety issues in the industry from the perspective of both industry and government, and (2) to identify strategies for preventing accidents and reducing the commercial fishing industry’s unacceptably high injury and fatality rate.
  • In April 2011, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to seek input on changing the guidelines that NMFS uses to assess safety hazards during their fisheries management policy development process. NMFS invited NIOSH to provide technical guidance during this process. Recent work by NIOSH has shown that the fishery management process can more explicitly address safety at sea by analyzing fishing hazards in a more structured way.
  • In September 2010, Congress passed the US Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 – Pub.L. 111-281. The Act contains instructions to the US Coast Guard to prevent vessel loss, falls overboard, and severe injuries in the commercial fishing industry and to improve safety training. These recommendations were based partly on NIOSH Congressional Testimony in the Spring of 2007. During the testimony, NIOSH shared an analysis of fatality data for the industry and gave examples of successful intervention efforts that were conducted in Alaska resulting in a decline in the fishing fatality rate in that region.

The NIOSH Commercial Fishing Safety Research Program assists the US Coast Guard in identifying specific hazards in each region of the country.

  • In 2014 NIOSH signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Coast Guard to provide data analysis for the development of fishery-specific Alternative Safety Compliance Programs authorized under the 2010 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act. NIOSH is working with the USCG to develop tailored, risk-based safety programs that address the most common causes of vessel casualties and fisherman injuries in specific fisheries around the country.
  • The US Coast Guard has entered an MOA with NIOSH creating a data sharing agreement. The two organizations are working together to improve data quality in USCG investigations. In addition, several requests have been made by various offices in the USCG for data from the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Incident Database (CFID). Here are a few examples:
    • The USCG has created the “NIOSH Supplement” to collect particular information on victims and survivors during the investigation of vessel losses to better assess the impact of survival equipment and training in these events
    • USCG Sector Seattle used CFID data to assess the fatality problem in their area of responsibility
    • USCG District 13 (Washington and Oregon) requested CFID data to add to a map on their website describing the fatal events and prevention measures for the fishing industry in their district.
  • Based on NIOSH data published in the article Commercial Fishing Fatalities—California, Oregon, and Washington, 2000-2006, MMWR 2008; 57 (16): 426-9, the USCG developed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Washington and Oregon Coasts regarding improved safety procedures for crossing hazardous river bars. These rules were implemented in December 2009.
  • During the summer of 2011, USCG Fishing Safety personnel in Alaska requested assistance from NIOSH to understand the hazards in skiff operations that has resulted in partnerships with fishing villages to provide better solutions to prevent drownings.

NIOSH Engineering Solutions have been adopted by the fishing industry

  • NIOSH developed an emergency stop (E-stop) that can be retrofitted to any winch. When engaged, it locks the winch in place reducing the severity of entanglement. The technology was licensed to Emerald Marine in Seattle, WA to produce a commercially-available retrofit kit which is now available from winch manufacturer KolstrandExternal. All major winch manufacturers in the Northwest are now making new winches with an e-stop as a standard feature. The development and commercialization of this device was honored with the CDC Director’s Innovation Award in 2008.
  • NIOSH developed a low-cost Hatch and Door Monitoring System for commercial fishing boats to aid in the prevention of progressive flooding – a major cause of vessel loss. The system has been sea-tested on two boats in the Bering Sea. Based on positive results and reception from industry, NIOSH licensed this technology to Wapato EngineeringExternal in Gaston, Oregon to produce and market the safety monitor.
  • To assist boat captains and crews in recognizing degraded vessel stability due to liquid slosh in their tanks and holds, NIOSH has designed an improved Slack-Tank Monitor. The system features enhanced robustness compared to existing systems and increases information available from typical industry-standard monitors. The design can also be adapted to function as a multi-level flood sensor in bilges and watertight compartments. Development and testing are on-going, but industry interest in the commercialization of this system is high.

Individual Fishermen and Fishing companies are changing safety policies based on research performed by the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Safety Program.

  • In April 2011 and as a direct result of NIOSH’s personal flotation device (PFD) research and outreach, the Alaska Scallop Association has established a 100% PFD policy for its member boats. The Association requested six NIOSH DVDs entitled, “Man Overboard: Prevention and Recovery” to help educate its crews as to why it has adopted this PFD policy and why PFDs are so important for survival.
  • The F/V Bristol Mariner and F/V Aleutian Mariner also participated in the NIOSH PFD study. As a result of participation in the PFD study, In September 2011, the Mariner fleet of crab fishing vessels (8 vessels in total) has instituted a PFD policy and purchased PFDs for all crewmembers to wear while working on deck.
  • The F/V Wizard, from the Deadliest Catch, participated in the NIOSH personal flotation device (PFD) study. The F/V Wizard has instituted a 100% mandatory PFD requirement while on deck. The NIOSH study played a role in the captain’s decision to make PFDs mandatory.

Other agencies and organizations also utilize information from the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Safety Research Program.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • NOAA requested data from the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Incident Database to quantify the hazard of deaths in the US fishing industry due to embarking / disembarking a vessel
  • NOAA requested data from the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Incident Database to assess the impact of rationalized fisheries on fatality rates in these fisheries.

State Safety and Resource Agencies

  • Oregon FACE Program used data from CFID to identify fatalities and non-fatal vessel disasters in the Oregon Dungeness Crab fishery.
  • Oregon State Fish and Wildlife Department considered making Dockside Safety Exams mandatory for the Dungeness Crab fleet based on the NIOSH data reported in the MMWR 57 (16): 426-9
  • State of Alaska Office of Economic Development requested CFID data to summarize fatalities in salmon fisheries to understand which gear types are more hazardous

Marine Safety Advocates

  • The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association uses NIOSH data to identify areas to conduct marine safety classes for the commercial fishing industry in Alaska as well as in the “lower 48”.
  • The USCG, US Marine Safety Association and PFD manufacturers are all now organizing promotions highlighting the availability of new and improved PFDs based on NIOSH research revealing fisherman’s acceptance of PFDs.
  • Based on the awareness raised by the Hatch and Door Monitor System project, the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners Association developed a training course on proper use and maintenance of watertight doors on fishing vessels.

NIOSH-funded Agriculture Centers

  • Northeast Center for Agricultural Health has used NIOSH CFID data to identify project areas to work on to improving safety in the Northeast fishing fleet.
  • The Southwest Center for Agricultural Health used NIOSH CFID data to gain more information regarding falls overboard fatalities in the Gulf of Mexico Region. In January 2012, the Southwest Center invited Dr. Lincoln to Louisiana to present regional fatality data in more detail to an advisory panel working on a project to reduce injuries and fatalities among Vietnamese shrimp fishermen along the Gulf Coast.
  • The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center used the NIOSH personal flotation device study as a model for their study with Dungeness crab fishermen on the Oregon coast in November 2010.
Page last reviewed: December 23, 2016