Commercial Fishing Boat With NetsThere is no doubt that commercial fishing carries a high rate of serious or fatal maritime accidents. In 2009, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) performed a safety review of the Distant Water Tuna Fleet (DWTF) operating in the Hawaii/Pacific region, discovering that employee injuries increase alongside fishing activity.

Commercial Fishing Injuries in Hawaii/Pacific Waters

As demand for tuna skyrocketed between 2006 and 2012, U.S. fishing presence in the area increased to 39 total vessels, the largest in terms of commercial fishing catcher size and number of crew members. The average length of each vessel was over 200 feet and hosted between 20 to 40 workers. Over the course of the study, a total of 14 fatal and 20 non-fatal traumatic injuries were reported by the DWTF—with the number of fatal injuries increasing steadily during the study period.

The most common injuries resulted from:

  • Drowning. Nearly half of all fatalities were caused by falls overboard. Five deadly falls were witnessed by other crew members, and all of the victims were seen working with a line or climbing on nets just before the fall occurred. None of the victims killed in falls overboard were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD).
  • Machinery accidents. Fishing equipment was linked to two fatalities by entanglement, one struck-by incident, and one death by blunt trauma after a vessel collided with a channel marker. Catastrophic mast and boom failures caused at least one fatal crush injury and seven non-fatal injuries.
  • Exposure. Two crew members were sent to clean a holding tank to remove decaying fish biomass. Neither had proper personal protective equipment nor training in confined-space working procedures, and both lost consciousness. Two additional crew members who attempted to rescue the pair also lost consciousness, resulting in three serious poisonings and one death by exposure to hydrogen sulfide. 

If you or someone you love has been hurt at sea, you should contact the qualified maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible to learn your legal rights. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.
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