Alaska’s fishing industry had some much-welcome good news recently. According to a recent report by the Northern Pacific Fishery Council, the notoriously dangerous industry is getting safer.
The report studied Alaska fisheries from 2013 to the end of 2022 and found the fatality rate declined by 57% over that 10-year period. This was in keeping with a nationwide trend, Researchers have found that the fatality rate in the fishing industry has dropped steadily since 2009.
Still, experts warn that commercial fishing remains a dangerous business, particularly in Alaska. The period of 2013-2022 saw 88 deaths, or about one-third of all deaths reported in the nation’s fishing industry during that time.
According to the report, 28% of the fatalities in Alaska fishing resulted from onboard accidents. Another 23% involved falls overboard. Onshore activity accounted for 12% and 5% involved diving accidents.
The largest single cause was vessel disasters — fires, capsizing and so on.
Researchers further found that disasters were more common on some vessels than others, but that disasters were not necessarily more likely on older ships. In fact, vessels more than 25 years old were no more likely than newer boats to experience major accidents.
Instead, the single greatest indicator of risk was a history of injuries on the vessel. Vessels that had reported a serious injury to a crewmember within the previous 10 years were three times more likely to experience another disaster, the report said.
When injured maritime workers seek to collect compensation through the Jones Act, they may need to prove that they worked in unsafe conditions. This can involve arguing over the so-called seaworthiness of the vessel.
A history of accidents on the vessel can constitute strong evidence that the ship lacked the requisite seaworthiness, and therefore make it more likely that the worker will recover compensation.
Unfortunately, collecting this type of information isn’t always easy. It’s good for the injured to seek out experienced advice.