Commercial Fishing Accidents

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Commercial fishing is one of the top ten most hazardous jobs in the United States. The Coast Guard estimates that 80% of accidents are caused by human error, and few sailors survive a commercial fishing accident on the open water.

Because of the high fatality rate of commercial fishing accidents, the Coast Guard recommends that all seafarers understand the risks involved with maritime activities and familiarize themselves with the safety precautions and training that could possibly save their lives. Not everything on this list is required by law, while some of the things require experience or only common sense.

Safety at Sea Tips

1. Weather – Know what the weather forecast is before you go out. Commercial fishing accidents occur by a vessel setting sail in weather that exceeds the vessel's capability.

2. Crew – Make sure that the crew is trained and as experienced as possible. Proper training on safety equipment is critical as up to 80% of commercial fishing accidents are caused due to preventable human error.

3. Stability – Make sure that the vessel is stable in the water. Commercial fishing accidents frequently occur because of ice build-up, improperly sealed hatches, and overloaded or incorrectly laden vessels.

4. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon's (EPIRB's) and Communications – When used properly, an EPIRB can save lives. Unfortunately, few seamen are trained to use it properly, and operator error or mechanical failure can be disastrous on the open water. The Coast Guard recommends all vessels carry supplemental communication devices such as VHF radio or a satellite phone.

5. Immersion Suits – These protective garments can save a commercial fisherman's life. It is important to make sure that all crewmembers know how to use them and that they fit correctly before the vessel leaves port.

6. Survival Craft – A survival craft is not required by the Coast Guard, but these auxiliary vessels exponentially increase survival rates during a maritime accident. Proper maintenance and use will save lives in during a critical situation.

7. Personal Flotation Devices – PFDs are the simplest way to prevent drownings. All hands exposed to open deck conditions should wear a PFD because it can save lives during a commercial fishing accident.

8. Damage Control – Prompt damage control can prevent a minor inconvenience from mushrooming into a life-threatening crisis. If a vessel starts to take on water due to faulty valves, an electrical short sparks a fire, or any other situation threatens the vessel, fixing the problem with a damage control repair team can save the craft and the crew.

9. Fire Fighting – Vessel fires are one of the most dangerous of all maritime conditions. Smoke, large amounts of fuel, tight quarters, and no place to escape the flames can quickly turn a craft into a floating death trap. Every crewmember should be trained on the location and proper use of fire suppression equipment. A surprising number of vessel fires occur each year; therefore, practice drills and extra fire extinguishers can save the lives of the crew and the vessel itself in a commercial fishing accident.

10. Safety Exams – this walkthrough by the Captain ensures that all equipment is in working order, is properly stowed, and that the crew knows where all items are kept and how to use them properly. The Coast Guard is more than happy to conduct a pre-launch safety exam free of charge, as they correctly believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

If you or a loved one was the victim of a commerical fishing accident you need to consult an admiralty and maritime law lawyer immediately. Statutes of limitations for seaborne accidents can be as short as six months, so you must act quicly or lose your chance for justice. Contact our maritime and admiralty law attorneys today.

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