No safety net in the dangerous commercial fishing industry: part two

Last week we talked about the high fatality rate in the commercial fishing industry and how the industry has traditionally resisted legislative efforts to intervene with safety standards. Traditionally, commercial fishing safety has received a dearth of attention on the federal level.

However, more commercial fishermen and safety advocates are joining cries for reform in Congress. Expanding safety laws and requirements for commercial fishing vessels could bring some much-needed scrutiny to this industry, which claimed 116 lives in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Federal lawmakers have repeatedly failed to require inspections of commercial fishing boats. These boats are often decades old and have to withstand grueling conditions in deep waters. Unsafe vessels are responsible for many wrecks – and accompanying fatalities- at sea.

No standards exist for building or maintaining these vessels, which provides a sharp contrast to the rigorous standards set for ferries or cargo ships. Because they are uninspected, the Coast Guard may not board a ship to inspect it for safe conditions and maintenance.

Congress recently took a small but important step by making dockside inspections of fishing vessels’ mandatory. However, these required inspections are limited to equipment and do not cover the boats themselves. The Coast Guard performs some voluntary inspections but research in 2007 found that only about ten percent of commercial vessels took advantage of them

If you or a loved one have been injured while employed at sea, consider speaking with a personal injury attorney experienced in related workers’ compensation and Jones Act matters. They can help you review your case and pursue any appropriate claims for damages, including lost wages, pain and suffering or medical expenses.

Source: The Center for Public Integrity, “Fishing deaths mount, but government slow to cast safety net for deadliest industry,” Ronnie Greene, Aug. 22, 2012

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