Fishing has been a critical industry for thousands of years. Yet, just like construction and forestry, the fact that fishing is an age-old profession has not inspired a rate of safety improvements which mirrors other technological advances of the trade. In America, the rate of commercial fisherman claims related to injury, illness or death has categorized the industry as the most dangerous in the nation.
One claim from earlier this year involved the actual disappearance of a commercial sword-fisherman, which occurred during his first week back at work after taking leave to recover from a bacterial infection. He was found to be missing after his vessel encountered a deadly combination of high seas and high winds.
Fishermen regularly encounter treacherous conditions from which there is really no escape. One of the primary reasons for the high rate of injury, illness and death in the fishing industry is that when trouble finds you, you have no where to go but below deck. Both weather conditions and machinery accidents that could be easily addressed on dry land can become fatal when you are stranded miles from shore.
These risk factors are not meant to inspire fewer Americans to seek a good living in the fishing industry. Rather, a reminder of what commercial fishermen face on regular basis serves to underscore why they are the subject of special maritime worker protections in the event of work-related injury, illness or death. It is due to the very hazardous nature of the profession that workers should not hesitate to enforce their right in the event of an accident.
Source: Sun Sentinel, “Fishing Was His Life…And His Death” by Mike Clary, Jan. 30, 2013.