National Fisherman


Boats & Gear 

Michael CrowleyThe Boats & Gear blog is overseen by our Boats & Gear editor, Michael Crowley. It explores new construction projects, electronics, gear and equipment for the commercial fishing industry.

America’s fishermen are a pretty diverse lot with Norwegian, Italian, Vietnamese, French, Croatian, Portuguese, Irish — just to name a few — backgrounds, all fishing a multitude of gear types from boats with very different designs. Some fishermen are out for a day and others stay out weeks at a time. There are fishermen who are slow to accept new ideas, and fishermen who are more willing to try something new. In some fisheries you can make a lot of money, some not so much, and in others it’s a battle to pay for the fuel.

Despite their differences, one habit seems common to all fishermen: the refusal to wear a PFD. That’s what fishermen from Maine to Alaska seem to be doing — and it’s killing them.

That’s a pretty safe statement, because of the 155 commercial fishermen who died after falling overboard between the years 2000 and 2009 NONE were wearing a PFD.

That’s just one depressing statistic among many in a study on fishing vessel fatalities by Jennifer Lincoln and Devin Lucas with the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health in Anchorage, Alaska. A summary of the work is in the July 16, 2010, issue of the aptly named “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A number of fishermen who died after going over the side were working alone, so what caused the accident will never be known, but 43 cases were the result of “slips or trips,” 34 were due to “losing their balance,” and 21 died from “gear entanglement.”

There really isn’t an excuse for not wearing a PFD. After all, these aren’t the cork life preservers of World War II. Those were definitely something to avoid. After a survey of men who had been on torpedoed tankers and freighters, a report was issued in 1942 that said not to “trust your life to the cork preserver… Men who have jumped overboard wearing cork preservers have had ribs, arms, and shoulders broken. The front of the preserver strikes the chin, knocking the wearer unconscious.”

We are not even talking about the PFDs of several years ago. Those could be a little bulky. Modern PFDs, like Mustang Survival’s MD3188 inflatable work vest, are lightweight, can be worn under foul-weather coats, will self-inflate, or can be manually inflated and are relatively easy to clean. And the Mustang PFD was designed with fishermen in mind.

These PFDs aren’t inexpensive — the Mustang is over $300 — but you can probably knock the price down by going in with several other fishermen and buying in volume. The other option is to be on the waiting list for the 155 And Counting Club.

Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

Read more...

Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

Read more...
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