CDC: West Coast Fishing a Deadly Occupation


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
April 27, 2008

Commercial fishermen in Oregon, Washington and California die at a much higher rate than other occupations, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After analyzing data from 2000 to 2006, the CDC said those three states saw a combined annual average of 238 deaths per 100,000 fishermen, roughly double the national average for the same period and nearly 60 times higher than the overall U.S. occupational fatality level (four per 100,000).

During the period studied, 58 commercial fishing deaths were reported - 21 from Oregon, 20 from California and 17 from Washington; all were men with an average age of 39. Safety equipment, including life rafts, had not been used adequately in the fatal events, the CDC said.

The Northwest Dungeness crab fleet had the highest fatality rate of any fishery off the coasts of the three states. It was even worse than the Bering Sea crab fishery off Alaska, which previously had been pegged as the most dangerous fishery, and is the subject of the hit reality TV show, "Deadliest Catch," which airs on the Discovery Channel.

During the 1990s, safety improvements in Alaskan fisheries prompted declines in its commercial fishing fatality rates, the CDC said. The new report was intended to assess the need for safety steps in the other three states, it added.

Alaska's commercial fishing death rate was 107 per 100,000 during the period studied.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would overhaul commercial-fishing safety rules. The new provisions were tacked on to a Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill that passed by a 395-7 vote on Thursday.

Dockside safety examinations, which are now voluntary, would be required for vessels that operate more than three miles offshore, among other safety regulations.

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