Deadliest Catch, Found in - 09-14-2010, 03:48 AM
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
King crab fishing in the Bering Sea is dangerous business, but contrary to what the cable television show suggests, it is not the deadliest catch.
Commercial fishing is, by almost any measure, the most dangerous profession in the United States. And the most dangerous fishing ground is the Northeast Coast, where fishermen go after groundfish — the bottom-dwelling species like flounder, sole and cod.
The Alaska Bering Sea crab fishery — the one featured on “Deadliest Catch” — is the fourth most dangerous, behind the Atlantic scallop fishery and fishing for West Coast Dungeness crabs.
The most recent report includes data collected from 2000 through 2009, a period that saw 504 fishing deaths.
“There are different hazards in different fisheries,” said Jennifer Lincoln of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lead author of the study. “In the Northeast, they go to sea for longer periods of time and further out to sea with larger crews. So when a vessel sinks, there are more lives at risk. The Gulf of Mexico is warmer water; New England is cold.” This, she said, means different dangers for each, and different safety measures required.
In the 1990s, measures recommended by the C.D.C. significantly reduced accidents and fatalities in the Alaska crab fishery. Then in 2007, the agency expanded its surveillance to include the rest of the country’s fishing areas, and found that there were fisheries even more problematic than Alaska’s.
Fatality rates were calculated using the number of vessels, the number of days at sea and the average number of crew members aboard each vessel. This yields the number of full-time-equivalent commercial fishermen.
There have been improvements, especially in the Alaska fishery, but Dr. Lincoln, who is an injury epidemiologist, said there was still much work to be done.
Although more people are surviving vessel losses, she said, the share of fatalities from falls overboard is unchanged, at 30 percent. “That’s one person at a time,” she said, “and it doesn’t make the headlines.
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