Fishing Vessel Safety
Fishing has always carried risk, and it continues
to be one of the most dangerous ways to earn a living. Books like Sebastian
Junger’s A Perfect Storm and popular
reality television shows such as The
Deadliest Catch help to highlight the hazards faced by fishermen. These
workers often harvest, load, transfer, and store their catch while their vessel
is at sea; weather can be dangerous, safety training can be inadequate, and
vessels can prove to be unseaworthy. Even with the technological advances of
the 21st century, commercial fishing vessel safety is a global
In 2008, the Transport
Safety Board of Canada
(TSBC 2014a) did a comprehensive review of
commercial fishing safety. Statistics from that year put the number of
commercial fishing vessels in Canada at more than 16,800, representing vessels
owned by a substantial number of owner-operators and a few large companies. The
value of commercially landed seafood in Canada that year was just under $1.9
billion. During the decade between 1999 and 2008, an
average of 14 fishers died each year
as a result of accidents (TSBC, 2013b).
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention categorized US fishing vessel deaths
for the period 2000 through 2010. The organization found that more than half of
all fatalities (51%) occurred after a vessel disaster. Another 31% of fatalities
occurred when a fisherman fell overboard, while 10% resulted from an injury
onboard. The remaining 7% of fatalities occurred while diving, or from onshore
injuries (CDC, 2014).
Towards Safer Commercial Fishing Practices
Investigators found that principles of fishing vessel stability were often
not understood properly, or were ignored. Weather, waves, and fishing
conditions for the entire journey must all be taken into account so as to avoid
resource management. When resource management doesn’t reflect safety at all
levels, fishers are put at risk.
appliances. Accidents can turn deadly if lifesaving devices are not
properly designed, carried, or maintained.
to safety. Commercial fishing enterprises often fail to take a proactive
approach to the question of safety, relying instead on regulations.
Deficiencies in training, including lack of training/retraining and improper
training fail to adequately protect fishers.
Captains are sometimes reluctant to spend money on safety measures.
Statistics. The lack of reliable data makes it hard for the industry to
accurately identify risks and make correct recommendations.
work practices. Despite best efforts, some fishermen engage in unsafe
Fishermen are often overtired, and fatigue is known to be a major factor in
accidents in every field (TSBC, 2014d).
Industry leaders, governments, and various organizations are
working to address these types of concerns and to mitigate the dangers of
commercial fishing. In the US, the National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
(CDC 2014b) has a list of recommendations for fishers
and their employers. These include such common sense directions as ensuring
that all crew members have regular safety training, wearing a personal
flotation device at all times when on deck, heeding weather forecasts,
inspecting the vessel regularly to ensure that it’s watertight, and conducting
monthly emergency drills.
In Canada, provincial organizations such as BC’s Fish
funded by both industry and government, work to improve safety
for commercial vessels of all sizes. Fish
Safe features fishermen mentoring more inexperienced workers, PR campaigns
aimed at increasing the use of Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), and hands-on
stability workshops (FSBC, 2014).
Unfortunately, accidents often occur globally on vessels
that are "IUU,” or "illegal, unregulated, and unreported.” Organizations such
as the International
Seafood Sustainability Foundation
(ISSF, 2014) and the World
(WWF 2014) are working to reduce the number of these vessels,
which also pose a threat to the sustainability of fish stocks worldwide. Clover
Leaf, a proud sponsor of ISSF, does not purchase from vessels engaging in IUU
fishing. Fishing must be legal and reported in order for the Regional Fisheries
Management Organizations (RFMOs) to be successful.
Transport Safety Board of Canada (TSBC 2013a), Safety Issues Investigation into Fishing Safety in Canada Retrieved October 21, 2014.
Transport Safety Board of Canada (TSBC 2013b, Safety Issues Investigation into Fishing Safety in Canada, Report Number M09Z0001. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/marine/etudes-studies/m09z0001/m09z0001.asp (Number of vessels in Canada, Value of commercial fishing in Canada, Number of fishers killed, 1999 – 2008)
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC 2014a,) Commercial Fishing Safety, Retrieved October 23, 2014
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/fishing/ (US fishing vessel deaths, NIOSH recommendations)
International Maritime Organization (IMO, 2014,) Fishing vessel safety, Retrieved October 21, 2014
http://www.imo.org/OurWork/Safety/Regulations/FishingVessels/Pages/Default.aspx (Worldwide deaths of fishers)
Transport Safety Board of Canada (TSBC 2013c,) Safety Issues Investigation into Fishing Safety in Canada, Report Number M09Z0001. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/marine/etudes-studies/m09z0001/m09z0001.asp (Areas of concern)
Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC 2014b,) About NIOSH Retrieved October 23, 2014
Fish Safe BC (FSBC 2013,) About Fish Safe, Retrieved October 27, 2014
https://www.fishsafebc.com/index.php?id=3 (Fish Safe BC program)
Miguel Jorge, International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF, 2014,) A Holistic Approach to Ending IUU Retrieved October 21, 2014
http://iss-foundation.org/2014/07/03/issf-a-holistic-approach-to-ending-iuu/ (ISSF initiatives to combat IUU)
WWF 2014, Fishing problems: Pirate fishing Retrieved October 23, 2014
http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/problems_fishing/fisheries_management/illegal_fishing/ (WWF initiatives to combat IUU)
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2014, Safety at Sea, Fishing: Dangerous Occupation Retrieved October 28, 2014
http://www.fao.org/fishery/topic/12272/en (Most dangerous occupation in the world)