Work-related mortality in the US fishing industry during 2000-2014: New findings based on improved workforce exposure estimates

Am J Ind Med. 2018 Jan;61(1):21-31. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22761. Epub 2017 Aug 23.


Background: Commercial fishing is a global industry that has been frequently classified as high-risk. The use of detailed surveillance data is critical in identifying hazards.

Methods: The purpose of this study was to provide updated statistics for the entire US fishing industry during 2010-2014, generate fleet-specific fatality rates using a revised calculation of full-time equivalent estimates, and examine changes in the patterns of fatalities and in risk over a 15-year period (2000-2014).

Results: During 2010-2014, 188 commercial fishing fatalities occurred in the United States. Vessel disasters and falls overboard remain leading contributors to commercial fishing deaths. The Atlantic scallop fleet stands out for achieving substantial declines in the risk of fatalities over the 15-year study period. However, fatality rates ranged from 21 to 147 deaths per 100 000 FTEs, many times higher than the rate for all US workers.

Conclusions: Although the number of fatalities among commercial fishermen in the United States has generally declined since 2000, commercial fishing continues to have one of the highest occupational fatality rates in the United States. The sustainable seafood movement could assist in improving the health and safety of fishing industry workers if worker well-being was integrated into the definition of sustainable seafood.

Keywords: fishing; mortality; occupational; surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational / mortality*
  • Adult
  • Disasters / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Fisheries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Seafood
  • Ships / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology