How far away is death?
If you’ve seen “The Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel, you may have an idea of the inherent dangers in crab-catching jobs. Overboard falls. Hypothermia. Shifts of 18-20 hours. Unpredictability of harvest. Mental fatigue. Remote locations with any hope of rescue a complicated, protracted endeavor. Getting caught in coil lines. Performance pressure in the brief working season. Extreme conditions and physical stress. The ever-present risk of swamping (being hit by a wave and inability to recover).
Then there’s the lack of a mandate for implementation of safety protocols, such as use of personal flotation devices; alarm system for person overboard; worker lifeline tethers; onboard safety drills.
Even though, since the 90s and the early 2000s, significant improvements and incentives with ties to safer performance and a decrease in fatalities have come into play in crab fishing, commercial fishing remains an “occupation with a work-related fatality rate of 86 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers in 2016, which is 23 times higher than the national average” (Fishermen’s News, June 1, 2018).