Fish Radio
Fishing no longer the deadliest job
September 29, 2015

Man overboard is #1 fishing death Credit:

Man overboard is #1 fishing death

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – Fishing is no longer the deadliest job. I’ll tell you more after this —

An AMSEA trained fisherman is more likely to survive an emergency at sea.  The Alaska Marine Safety Education Association provides Coast Guard accepted training for fishermen across Alaska. Learn more at

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Commercial fishing is no longer the nation’s deadliest occupation – that dubious distinction now goes to logging, according to the latest updates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And despite its popular name, the Deadliest Catch is not crabbing in the Bering Sea.  Data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) shows the fisheries totaling the most on the job deaths from 2000 to 2009 were the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fishery, Atlantic scallops was second and Alaska salmon ranked third.

For the decade through 2009, 504 fishermen died on the job; 133 of them in Alaska, averaging 13 deaths per year. Fifty-three percent of the deaths were caused by drowning after a vessel went down required all hands to abandon ship. And while it doesn’t make the headlines like a the loss of a vessel and crew, more than 30 percent of fishermen met their Maker by falling overboard – deaths that were largely preventable.

 Since 1990 there have been 83 commercial fishermen who have died from falls overboard. None were wearing a PFD. Many were in minutes of being rescued when they lost strength and drowned. In those cases it very clearly could have been prevented with a PFD.

Devin Lucas is a NIOSH statistician based in Anchorage.

Other deaths were due to injuries on deck –notably, 10 percent from getting entangled in the winch, used for winding ropes. Overall, from 1990 to 2014 there was a 74 percent drop in commercial fishing fatalities in Alaska.

Fishing deaths were not tracked nationally until 2000.  In 1999, the Coast Guard began mandatory annual safety and stability checks on many larger fishing boats and other safety measures   have been implemented since then.

Starting on October 15 of this year, dockside safety checks on all fishing vessels will be required by law. Find safety links at our website – and on Facebook – and wear a PFD if you’re out on the water.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods – who salutes and says thanks to the men and women fishing across Alaska for their hard work and dedication. ( In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.