Session 2B – Tracking Injury in the Fishing Sector: Trends and Opportunities

Monday, June 11, 10:45am–12:15pm, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1046

2B.1  Work-related mortality in the US fishing industry Samantha Case, U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); Devin Lucas, NIOSH (Presentation slides).

Background: Commercial fishing continues to be one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. However, published information on the burden and characteristics of fatal injuries has not been updated since 2009. The purpose of this study was to use updated fatality data to: 1) identify regional and fleet-specific hazards; 2) measure risk between fishing fleets; and 3) describe trends over the study period.

Methods: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed the Commercial Fishing Incident Database (CFID) to collect data describing all fatal injuries in the US fishing industry. Fatalities that occurred during 2000—2014 were extracted from CFID (results including more recent years will be presented). A descriptive analysis was completed to explore the patterns and characteristics of fatalities. Fatality rates were calculated for fleets with available workforce estimates.

Results: During 2000-2014, 693 commercial fishing fatalities occurred in the United States. Vessel disasters (50%) and falls overboard (30%) were leading contributors to commercial fishing deaths. The East Coast experienced the most deaths (n=225), followed by Alaska (n=179), the Gulf of Mexico (n=164), and the West Coast (n=115). The highest number of fatalities occurred in the Gulf of Mexico shrimp fleet (n=83). The Atlantic scallop fleet achieved substantial declines in the risk of fatalities over the study period. However, fleet-specific fatality rates ranged from 26 to 549 deaths per 100 000 FTEs, many times higher than the rate for all US workers.

Conclusions: Although the number of fatalities among commercial fishermen in the United States has generally declined since 2000, commercial fishing continues to have one of the highest occupational fatality rates in the United States. The use of detailed surveillance data is critical in identifying priority hazards for specific fishing fleets to be addressed in order to reduce the number and rate of work-related deaths.


2B.2  Occupational accidents in the Norwegian fishing fleet 2000-2017 Ingunn Marie Holmen, SINTEF Ocean; Trine Thorvaldsen, SINTEF Ocean; Halvard Aasjord, SINTEF Ocean (Presentation slides).

Working in fisheries is still the most risk exposed occupation in Norway, as well as globally (Jensen et al 2014). The number of injuries and fatalities are high in fishing compared to other occupations, and previous studies show that approximately 70% of all injuries occur on deck during fishing or production (Aasjord et al. 2012; McGuinness et al. 2013a&b). Furthermore, fishers are exposed to a combination of unfavorable exposures, including ship motions, cold and noise, heavy lifting, inconvenient working hours, long workdays and excessive strain (Thorvaldsen et al. 2016). Fatigue is also a challenge which may contribute to an increased risk level during fishing operations (Høvdanum et al 2014).

There are two main sources for detailed information on occupational accidents in the Norwegian fishing fleet. 1. The personal injuries statistics which is based on the accidents reported from the fishers to the Norwegian Maritime Authority. 2. A database of fatal accidents which is maintained by SINTEF Ocean, based on input from public media and public sources.

Based on these two sources, an updated version of the occupational accident statistic in Norwegian fisheries during the years 2000-2017 will be presented. Accidents have been analyzed to update the annual trends, and the presentation will give some examples of the most recent occupational accidents in Norwegian fisheries. Direct and contributing causes for accidents will also be discussed. Thorough knowledge about causes for occupational accidents is valuable for the prioritization of preventive measures as well as development of safety barriers that may reduce the risk for accidents on board.


Asjord HL, Holmen IM, Thorvaldsen T (2012). Occupational accidents and causalities in the Norwegian fishing fleet (In Norwegian). SINTEF report A23369. ISBN 978-82-14-05451-4.

Høvdanum AS, Jensen OC, Petursdóttir G, Holmen IM (2014). A review of fatigue in fishermen: a complicated and underprioritised area of research. Int Marit Health 65(3): 1–7.

Jensen OC, Petursdottir G, Holmen IM, Abrahamsen A, Lincoln J (2014). A review of fatal accident incidence rate trends in fishing. Int Marit Health 65(2): 47–52.

McGuinness E, Aasjord HL, Utne IB, Holmen IM (2013a). Injuries in the Commercial Fishing fleet of Norway 2000-2011. Safety Science 57: 82–99.

McGuinness E, Aasjord HL, Utne IB, Holmen IM (2013b). Fatalities in the Norwegian Fishing Fleet 1990-2011. Safety Science 57: 335-351.

Thorvaldsen T, Sønvisen SA, Holmen IM, Øren A (2016). A study of Norwegian fishers’ perception of the interaction between work, working environment and working health. (In Norwegian: Fiskerhelseundersøkelsen). SINTEF report A27653. ISBN 978-82-14-06079-9.


2B.3  Occupational safety issues of artisanal Hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha) fishermen in Southern Bangladesh Md. Sazedul Hoque, Patuakhali Science and Technology University; Martin Brakel, WorldFish Bangladesh and South Asia Office; Biplob Dey Mithun, Patuakhali Science and Technology University (Presentation slides).

Bangladesh operates one of the largest single-species hilsa shad (Tenualosa ilisha) fishery in the world, especially in the southern Patuakhali and Barguna coastal districts and adjacent Bay of Bengal. The hilsa shad is a predominantly artisanal gillnet and seine net fishery that provides employment, income and livelihood to almost half a million full-time fishers, who are regularly exposed to hazardous conditions at sea. Therefore, a study was conducted based on survey and available secondary data to identify different occupational hazards and safety issues faced by hilsa fishermen, and potential interventions for improvement of safety at sea are suggested. The study identified cyclonic storms in high seas as the major natural hazards which are the primary driver of fatalities of fishermen while at sea. Overloaded fishing vessels, slipping/accidentally being swept into the sea and entanglement while hauling nets are also amongst safety concerns identified. In 2015, 35 hilsa fishing boats were lost, 300 fishermen were stranded at sea, and at least 21 fishermen died from a single village. Furthermore, fishermen are attacked by pirates who engage in robbery and sequestration of fishermen for ransom, often killing their victims if the ransom is not paid. To ensure the sustainable hilsa production, the government of Bangladesh enforces seasonal hilsa fishing bans in designated hilsa sanctuaries and a blanket ban on catching juvenile hilsa. During the banning period, due to lack of alternative income and governmental support (Vulnerable Group Feeding), fishermen illegally do fishing for their living. In consequence, thousands of fishermen are arrested by police every year and punished, with gross violations of human rights and social safety being commonplace. Adequate governmental subsidies, maintenance of security by coast guard and navy, GPS, life jackets, navigating instruments and social awareness creation by NGOs could be possible interventions to improve occupational safety of hilsa fishermen in Bangladesh.


2B.4  Rates of fatalities and non-fatal occupational injuries in lobsteringScott Fulmer and Brian Buchholz, University of Massachusetts Lowell (Presentation slides).

The objective of this study was to compile data for descriptive and analytic epidemiology of occupationally-related injury and mortality associated with lobstering in the Northeast United States. To accomplish this objective, information was collected from lobstermen in Maine and Massachusetts to estimate denominators (i.e. total occupational exposure to lobstering) and numerators (i.e. the frequency of non-fatal injury associated with lobstering) for the total Northeastern workforce and for important subgroups.

A survey sample of lobstermen was identified to collect data on occupational exposure.  These survey data were used in conjunction with state licensing registries to estimate the total occupational exposure for the vessels in the region, and its seasonal, annual and geographic variation.  The leading types of occupationally-related morbidity and mortality for the New England lobstering industry was also analyzed.  The count of fatalities was obtained from the NIOSH database of U.S. Coast Guard reportable fatality data for the region to calculate the occupationally-related mortality rate.  A modified Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire was used to measure the prevalence and to indicate duration and severity of musculoskeletal disorders due to cumulative trauma or chronic pain.  An additional questionnaire was used to identify the incidence of acute injuries.

The data show that the lobstering industry characteristically has high rates of injury, high prevalence of pain, and low rates of occupational fatalities compared to other commercial fisheries.  The cohort suffered high rates of acute injury that varied little over the course of 4 years.  The high prevalence of non-acute pain was similar in profile to the body locations of acute injuries, but not an exact reflection.  Summer and fall were the most active seasons, while spring and summer had statistically higher prevalence of pain than fall.  Injury rates were not significantly different between the states.


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