Alaska has some of the richest fishing grounds in the world. Its vast waters are home to salmon, cod, halibut, pollock, crab, herring, and many other species. Cities such as Dutch Harbor, Ketchikan and Petersburg are often the gateways to these rich fisheries.
Each year, thousands of people head to Alaska to work on commercial fishing boats and fish processing plants. May through early fall is the peak season. This seasonal work can be quite lucrative as some workers earn tens of thousands of dollars for just a few months of work.
The financial rewards can sound quite appealing but working in commercial fishing comes with perilous risks. Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, the fatality rate for commercial fishing is 128/100,000 workers/year. This is more than 26 times the work-related fatality rate among all occupations.
And these are just the most tragic cases involving deaths, each season hundreds of employees working in commercial fishing are seriously injured. Severed limbs, deep laceration/scarring, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, and broken bones are serious injuries too commonly seen.
Many of the fishing jobs in Alaska are on small boats called purse seiners, trollers, or gillnetters. Others may work on longliners or crabbers. Employees working on these boats are in confined spaces with dangerous equipment. For more information on the types of serious injuries at see, please see our maritime injuries page.
Even in the summer, workers can face icy waters, high seas, and strong winds. The risk of capsizing is always present. In 2008, a 93-foot vessel Katmai sank in heavy seas reportedly due to the flooding of the ship’s hydraulic steering fluid killing seven crew members. In 2001, the Arctic Rose trawler capsized killing 15 crew members, making it the worst fishing accident in more than half a century.
Even onshore fish processing and cannery plant workers are not immune from serious injury. There are physical repetitive motions and the threat of dangerous equipment still persists.
Help For Seriously Injured Commercial Fishing Workers
Fortunately, injured commercial fishing workers have the legal right to compensation. Those working on commercial fishing boats at sea are protected under the Jones Act and other forms of protection may also be available under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, among other forms of compensation.
If you have been seriously injured while working at sea, you need the help of Bishop Legal’s maritime injury lawyers. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.