Commercial fishing remains one of the deadliest jobs in the U.S., with a fatality rate nearly 30 times higher than the national average. Every activity from working on deck to freezing and processing the catch carries specific risks—and that includes hazards to divers employed by commercial fisheries.

Common Causes of Diving Harvesting and Fishery Injuries

Commercial Diver About to Go on a DiveDive harvesting may be a relatively recent form of commercial fishing, but it is a thriving and necessary part of the seafood industry. Divers may be required to harvest lobster, red sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and geoduck clams, but they are also needed for vessel repairs and maintenance. As a result, divers who work for commercial fisheries may be owed benefits under the Jones Act after a maritime injury.

When the hazards of diving and fishing combine, it is usually the divers who suffer severe or fatal injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an average of 13 workers are killed by dive fishery injuries each year. The most common factors in fatal cases include:

  • Running out of air. Divers who are under pressure to collect as much seafood as possible for an employer may stray too far from the ship, become lodged in underwater debris or rocks, or surface too quickly, causing them to blackout as they run out of oxygen.
  • Equipment malfunction. The operation of pumps, hoses, hooks, hand tools, and welding torches can all pose a threat to a diver if they are poorly-maintained or unfit for the job.
  • Entanglement. Fishing lines, nets, and pots all pose a danger to divers under the water’s surface. Divers who are struck by sinking pots may lose consciousness, while those who become tangled in fishing line may be unable to make it back to the surface.

If you or someone you love was hurt at sea, it is vital that you contact the experienced maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY to learn your legal rights at no cost to you, 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.