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November 20, 2008

Lower West Coast fishing deadlier than Alaska

The commercial fishing deaths accumulated off the California, Oregon and Washington coasts from 2000 to 2006 totaled 58

The Anchorage Daily writer Manuel Valdes has uncovered a new federal report that has proven statistics showing that commercial fishing off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington is a higher risk profession than commercial fishing off the coast of Alaska.

The report released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety opposes the commonly held idea by most Americans that fishing the frigid northern waters is off the Alaskan coast is the most deadliest place to be a commercial fishermen. Obviously the success of hit Television shows like "The Deadliest Catch" which is widely viewed by the American public reinforce this misnomer, but the report from NIOS says other wise. In fact, the report determined that it's over twice as deadly to be a lower west coast fisherman in recent years.

Jennifer Lincoln, the head researcher constructing the report, noted that the Dungeness crabbing was particularly fatal compared to other fishing seasons, but overall the death toll accumulated by the Alaskan fleet per 10,000 fishermen wasn't nearly as tragic as the number of fishermen who were killed in the line of duty much further south.

Her research showed that for every 10,000 full time fishermen off the Alaskan coast, there were 1.07 fatalities, which is considerably less than the 2.38 deaths per 10,000 full time fishermen off the lower west coast states. Furthermore, the report showed that the Alaskan fatality rate for commercial fishermen was also below the nation wide overage of commercial fishing related deaths, which came to 1.15 per 10,000 fishermen.

One may think that numbers like this are unbelievable due to the harshness of the elements the Alaskan commercial fleet has to compete with, but Lincoln states that we should look at it from a different perspective. She notes that the reduced fatalities are a product of better precautions such as emergency training and regular safety inspection as well as the introduction of more and better survival gear such as rafts, survival suits and boats. Her point is emphasized even more when you look at the total deaths in years past with fewer fishermen compared to the numbers now. In 1990, 33 fishermen lost their lives to the sea whereas the number dropped dramatically to only 11 in 2007.

The commercial fishing deaths accumulated off the California, Oregon and Washington coasts from 2000 to 2006 totaled 58, although most occurred due to a boat capsizing and/or sinking followed by falling overboard and finally drug and alcohol related incidents.