COMMERCIAL DUNGENESS CRAB FISHING on the West Coast is one of the riskiest jobs in the United States, based on fatality rates. But nonfatal injuries in the fishery often go unreported, a study from Oregon State University shows.
“The commercial Dungeness fishing fleet, which operates along the coast of Oregon, Washington and Northern California, is a vital economic commodity,” says OSU researcher Laurel Kincl, an expert in environmental and occupational health and safety in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
Examining 12 years of crab-fishing data, she found 28 deaths from 2002 to 2014. During that same period, 45 injuries were reported to the U.S. Coast Guard. About 70 percent of the fatalities were linked to the capsizing or sinking of vessels. Fishermen drowning or falling overboard accounted for the rest. Among injuries, fractures were the most common, followed by hypothermia, lacerations and digit amputations.
Along with Oregon Sea Grant and coastal-community researchers, Kincl is meeting with fishermen and surveying crabbing crews along the Pacific coast to learn more about safety and injuries in the industry. She and her colleagues plan to design and test interventions to help reduce injuries.