West Coast waters prove deadlier than Alaska's

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2008

SEATTLE - A new report from the federal government says fishing off the West Coast of the United States has one of the highest death rates in commercial fishing - even higher than in waters off Alaska.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a report Thursday detailing the hazards of fishing in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. The report said those three states combined for a fatality rate more than twice as high as the national commercial fishing average between the years of 2000 and 2006.

The report underscores the continuing hazards of commercial fishing, one of the most dangerous occupations in the country, but it dispels the notion that fishing in Alaska is the most dangerous.

In the past few years, the hard work and hazards of commercial crab fishing off Alaska have mesmerized viewers of "The Deadliest Catch," a Discovery Channel show that chronicles fishing boats working in the Bering Sea.

But the fatality rate from the three West Coast states, the report found, was also more than twice as high as the death rate from ocean fishing off Alaska.

Adjusting for the unusual work schedules of commercial fishermen, researchers found that death rates among fishermen in Alaska worked out to about 1.07 deaths per 10,000 full-time fishermen between 2000 and 2006. In contrast, during the same time period, the three Pacific Coast states combined for a rate of 2.38 deaths per 10,000 full-time fishermen. Nationwide, the fatality rate for commercial fishing in the period was 1.15 deaths per 10,000 fishermen. For all occupations nationwide, the fatality rate was .04 deaths per 10,000 workers.

"Although Alaska's Bering Sea crab fishery has been described as the most dangerous fishery, data from this analysis indicate that the Northwest Dungeness crab fleet had a greater number of fatalities and a higher fatality rate during 2000-2006," Jennifer Lincoln, the head researcher, wrote in the report.

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