How safe is commercial fishing? Well, if you compare it to an earlier time, say, 1877 to 1881, it’s a lot safer. In that five-year period, 452 fishermen died and 65 fishing vessels never made it back to port. That’s just for the port of Gloucester, Mass.

AMSEA uses the stability rocker in training sessions to show stability principles. AMSEA photo.Putting that five-year period up against a more recent one — 2010 to 2014 — finds that 188 fishermen died nationwide, as opposed to over 400 from a single port. That’s part of a 34 percent decline in commercial fishing fatalities between 2000 and 2014, based on figures from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

While the fatality numbers from the 1800s and the fatality figures for the 21st century are fortunately very different, the leading causes are similar: man overboard, stability issues and flooding. “If those problems could be eliminated,” says Jerry Dzugan with the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association in Sitka, “you would cut the fatality rates in the fisheries by almost 80 percent.” He’s quoted in “A Way of Life” in the December issue of National Fisherman on page 48.

In that issue, there are a couple of examples of projects to reduce the numbers of fatalities due to stability and man overboard issues. One is AMSEA’s stability rocker that it uses in its training courses to help fishermen visualize stability concepts.

The other is a pilot project led by Julie Sorensen with the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety in Cooperstown, N.Y., to understand the barriers to wearing PFDs among lobstermen in Maine and Massachusetts.

Part of that study is not only figuring out why fishermen don’t wear PFDs but why marine supply stores don’t carry PFDs appropriate for fishermen.

The December story features one PFD designed specifically for fishermen. That’s Kent Safety Products Rogue flotation vest. Check out “A Way of Life.” That Kent PFD might be for you.

A collection of stories from guest authors.

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