Large fishing vessels called freezer-trawlers and freezer-longliners process and freeze their catch while out at sea. As we discussed in part one of this post, freezer-trawlers (FTs) and freezer-longliners (FLs) can be dangerous for workers due to the heavy equipment and exposure to numerous risk factors. Many workers decide to take the risk in order to potentially reap a lot of cash for big hauls.
The dangers of working on factory trawlers are no secret. Long hours, rocking seas, and loose safety conditions are a recipe for injury.
The long-running television series Deadliest Catch is well named. Government statistics have long shown that commercial fishing has fatality rates that are up to forty times above the national average.
Skipsteknisk AS is a vessel design firm located in Aalesund, Norway, which attracts and employs some of the most cutting edge naval architects in the world. They design vessels with gear and systems for the specific requirements for that vessel, such as fishing, research, offshore supply, and patrol work. The ST-155L, a DNV Classed Freezer Stern Trawler Fishing Vessel, is one of their designs, and sometime in 2014 we should be seeing two of them based in Seattle and working in Alaskan seas.
The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as a government agency, is subject to the budget cuts that Congress did not manage to avert on March 1. There is concern in the fishing industry that possible cuts to the NOAA Fisheries Observation Program will affect how (and if) commercial fishing vessels are run. The U.S. commercial fishing industry generates roughly $4 billion per year, directly and indirectly employing tens of thousands of citizens.
Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, are those damages awarded by judge or jury in civil cases where the defendant has been found to have acted with outrageous disregard for the rights of the plaintiff, often for monetary gain. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for gross negligence and purposeful misconduct as well as to send a strong warning that such actions will have consequences. The plaintiff receives this award on top of any other damages awarded.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 10.1 billion pounds of seafood were caught nationwide by U.S. commercial fishers in 2011, valued at $1.9 billion, with Alaska catching 5.4 billion pounds of that. NOAA further reports that this is a 23% increase in volume and 17% rise in value over 2010.
The updated, completed National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report on commercial fishing fatalities in the U.S. is in. There were 39 fatalities in the fishing industry reported for 2011. The number reported for 2010 was 38.
Aleutian Spray Fisheries, Inc., Ocean Peace, Inc., and United States Seafoods, LLC, have each been fined by the EPA for violations of the Clean Water Act. A total of four vessels from these three companies were found to have violated seafood waste discharge permit regulations in Alaskan waters. According to regulation, such waste must be ground to an half-inch or less in order to facilitate waste dispersal at sea, and appropriate records of sample-taking and regular inspections must be maintained on board each vessel. The EPA found the Aleutian Spray and United States Seafoods violations in 2011 and the Ocean Peace violation in 2010.
The Coast Guard recently released information on the top ten most severe marine casualties from 2006 through 2010, rating these ten in terms of loss of life, loss of vessel, damage, and pollution. In 2010, the Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) Deepwater Horizon explosion made headlines, with 11 deaths, 17 injured workers, and estimated damages of $350 million. But, for all of that, the overall highest fatality rate among those who work at sea is in the commercial fishing industry. During the same time period, 30 fishing industry members perished while working.