The purpose of the study was to study the circumstances and incidence rates of fatal accidents in inspection obligated and non-inspection obligated Danish fishing vessels to identify areas for prevention. Information about the fatalities came from maritime authority reports, including vessel disaster reports, post mortem reports, maritime inquiries and police reports. The person- and vessel years at risk came from the Danish Directorate of Fisheries. During the period 1989-2005, 114 fatalities occurred. Sixty-one of the fatalities occurred in 36 vessel disasters mainly caused by foundering/capsizing due to stability changes in rough weather and collisions; 39 fatal occupational accidents mainly occurred on the larger inspection obligated trawlers during fishing. In the remaining 14 other fatal accidents, the main causal factors were difficult embarking/disembarking conditions by darkness in foreign ports and alcohol intoxication. In the period 1995-2005, the overall incidence rate was 10 per 10,000 fishermen per year with no down-going trend during that period. The fatal accident rates are still too high, despite the efforts to reduce the risk. Increased focus on regular and repeated safety training for all fishermen and improved safety measures are needed, especially in the underscored areas of sea disasters concerning small vessels and occupational accidents on big vessels. Better registration of time at risk for fishermen is needed to validate the effect of the safety measures.