Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Interventions in the Interest of Safety-- PART 1

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by Ms. Ann S.N. Backus, M.S., occupational safety instructor, Harvard School of Public Health.

Maine’s Commercial Fishing Industry

Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated more than 233 million pounds of live fish landed in 2008 by Maine commercial fishermen included: the American lobster, accounting for 30 percent of the catch; the Atlantic herring for 28 percent; and the cultured Atlantic salmon for nine percent.

In terms of dollar value, the American lobster catch accounted for 68 percent of the $362 million industry in Maine in 2008, cultured Atlantic salmon accounted for 17 percent, and the value of the Atlantic herring catch was only two percent of the total catch.

High Dollar, High Risk

The average price per pound for lobster was at an all-time high of $4.43 in 2007 and has dropped each of the succeeding years in spite of (or perhaps because of) major increases in landings in 2008 and 2009.

Fatality rates in the lobster fishery are also of great concern. In terms of casualty data, from 1993 to 2010, according to U.S. Coast Guard First District statistics:
  • 29 percent of the deaths were in the trawler industry,
  • 24 percent were in the lobster fishery,
  • 6.7 percent were divers.
If we look at deaths by fishery in the last three years we see that:
  • 37 percent were trawler industry deaths,
  • 11 percent were lobster fishery deaths,
  • 19 percent were diver deaths.
Mandated Training
In 1995, the Maine DMR supported the apprentice license requirement and apprentice program that became effective in 1996. In November 2006, the Maine Commercial Fishing Safety Council recommended that fishing vessel drill conductor training be part of the apprentice program. Under this program, those wishing to become lobstermen must complete an apprenticeship that requires 1,000 hours of lobstering and complete an accepted Coast Guard fishing vessel drill conductor course and a first aid course. To date, almost 900 apprentices have completed the program.

PICTURED: John McMillan and
Coast Guard commercial fishing safety examiner Paul Smith-Valley teach escape techniques using an egress trainer at the 2010 Fishermen’s Forum, Rockport, Maine. Photo courtesy of Ms. Ann Backus.
In Part 2 we will find out more about Maine’s commercial fishing industry.