Fishing is more than a popular hobby. It is a massive industry, especially in Southern California. Thousands of workers head out in boats every day to see what they can catch and earn a living out on the ocean. For all the excitement and potential income involved in fishing work, there is also a huge amount of risk.
Those involved in professional fishing contribute substantially to the number of maritime workers that get hurt every year. Overall, those who work in the fishing industry are at far more risk than many other workers around the country. Federal statistics show a fatality rate several times higher than any other industry, and injury rates are hard to track because many professionals are self-employed and therefore, self-insured as well.
Although many injuries on fishing vessels are accidents, there are two noteworthy trends that play a role in a significant portion of the fishing fatalities that occur in the United States.
Workers falling overboard
Federal fatality data for the fishing industry shows that 36% of fatalities involve workers falling overboard. Sometimes, fishermen can get their legs or their equipment tangled in nets, lines, or other equipment that then drag them overboard.
Working on the edge of the deck or the exterior of the boat to make repairs is also a known risk factor for falling overboard. Especially when making a to the ship or when hauling in or laying out nets and lines, workers should be very aware of everything going on around them.
Sinking or capsized vessels
A fisherman is only as safe as the vessel that he boards, and unfortunately, some fishing fleets don’t receive the maintenance that they should. Poorly maintained or improperly repaired vessels are at higher risk of taking on water, capsizing or sinking, especially during inclement weather. Vessels sinking or capsizing played a role in roughly a third of the reported fatalities and in a significant number of the multi-fatality incidents reported involving professional fishermen.