NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the panel responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.
This report is supported by Contract Number DTCG23-89-C-200113 between the U.S. Coast Guard of the Department of Transportation and the National Academy of Sciences.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
National Research Council (U.S.). Marine Board. Committee on Fishing Vessel Safety.
Fishing vessel safety : blueprint for a national program / Committee on Fishing Vessel Safety, Marine Board, Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems, National Research Council.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-309-04379-4 : $29.95
1. Fisheries—United States—Safety measures. 2. Fishing boats—United States—Safety measures. 3. Fishing boats—Safety regulations—United States. 4. Fisheries—Safety regulations—United States. I. Title.
© 1991 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced by any mechanical, photographic, or electronic process, or in the form of a phonographic recording, nor may it be stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or otherwise copied for public or private use without written permission from the publisher, except for the purposes of official use by the U.S. government.
Printed in the United States of America
Cover: The shrimper John and Olaf aground and breaking up, Shelikof Strait, Alaska, early 1970s. The vessel grounded on a shoal off the Alaska Peninsula and her engine room flooded while seeking refuge from a fierce storm, heavy icing and the threat of capsizing. A Coast Guard cutter attempting rescue suffered severe icing and was forced back to Kodiak. The captain and three crewmen abandoned the fishing vessel to a liferaft tethered to the rail. The raft was found ashore 70 miles away after breaking free. All four fishermen, including a father and son, were lost. Coffee cups later found on the galley table and on the bridge revealed that the vessel had weathered the storm without capsizing. (U.S. Coast Guard)
COMMITTEE ON FISHING VESSEL SAFETY
ALLEN E. SCHUMACHER, Chairman,
American Hull Insurance Syndicate (retired)
WILLIAM G. GORDON, Vice-Chairman,
New Jersey Marine Sciences Consortium
BRUCE H. ADEE,
University of Washington
DESMOND B. CONNOLLY,
Independent Marine Services, Inc.
JOHN E. deCARTERET, U.S. Coast Guard (retired)
GUNNAR P. KNAPP,
University of Alaska, Anchorage
HAL R. LUCAS,
Sahlman Seafoods, Inc.
JAMES O. PIERCE II,
University of Southern California
LARRY D. SUND,
Golden Age Fisheries
BRIAN E. TURNBAUGH,
Point Judith Fishermen's Cooperative
JACK R. WILLIS,
Zapata Haynie Corporation
MADELYN YERDEN-WALKER, Consultant
Government and Industry Liaisons
STEVEN C. BUTLER,
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
National Council of Fishing Vessel Safety and Insurance
NORMAN W. LEMLEY, U.S. Coast Guard
National Marine Fisheries Service
ROBERT C. ROUSH,
NOAA Corps, National Sea Grant College Program
JOHN C. SCHERWIN,
American Bureau of Shipping
National Transportation Safety Board
Marine Board Staff
CHARLES BOOKMAN, Director
WAYNE YOUNG, Project Officer
PAUL SCHOLZ, Research Associate (through August 1990)
ANDREA JARVELA, Editor
AURORE BLECK, Administrative Assistant
BRIAN J. WATT, Chairman,
The Ralph M. Parsons Company Ltd.
ROBERT N. STEINER, Vice-Chairman,
Delaware River Port Authority
ROBERT G. BEA,
NAE, University of California at Berkeley
JAMES M. BROADUS III,
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
LARRY L. GENTRY,
Lockheed Advanced Marine Systems
ROBERT T. HUDSPETH,
Oregon State University
MARCUS J. JOHNSON,
Sea-Land Service, Inc.
JUDITH T. KILDOW,
BERNARD Le MEHAUTE,
University of Miami
WILLIAM R. MURDEN,
NAE, Murden Marine, Ltd.
JOSEPH D. PORRICELLI,
PAUL A. SANDIFER,
South Carolina Wildlife Marine Resources Department
JERRY R. SCHUBEL,
State University of New York at Stony Brook
PETER R. TATRO,
Scientific Applications International Corporation
GEORGE P. VANCE,
Mobil Research and Development Corporation
International Maritime Inc.
EDWARD WENK, Jr.,
NAE, University of Washington, Emeritus
CHARLES A. BOOKMAN, Director
DONALD W. PERKINS, Associate Director
DORIS C. HOLMES, Staff Associate
In recent years, public awareness of fishing vessel accidents—some resulting in the loss of all on board—has focused national attention on widespread safety problems in the commercial fishing industry. Each year an average of 250 fishing vessels are lost along the Atlantic, Gulf, Pacific, and Alaskan coasts, and over 100 fishermen lose their lives pursuing their occupation. These fatalities, while perhaps low in aggregate numbers, nevertheless reflect a high rate of occurrence relative to most other occupations. Commercial fishing is widely perceived as perhaps the most dangerous occupation in the United States. Despite persistent danger, fishermen continue to fish. The foremost concern of this study is how to underpin commercial fishing with practical options for improving safety.
Congress responded to strong expressions of concern over unabated losses of fishermen and their vessels and to fishermen's concerns over rising costs of insurance with the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act of 1988 (CFIVSA, P.L. 100-424), included as Appendix J. Among other provisions, the act instructed the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a “Fishing Industry Vessel Inspection Study,” using the facilities of the National Academy of Engineering.
In response to the congressional mandate, the secretary requested that the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering conduct a comprehensive assessment of vessel and personnel safety problems and develop a full range of safety management alternatives, including
vessel inspection. In requesting the study, the secretary advised that the Coast Guard intended to use the technical information, analysis, and recommendations in a report to Congress and in its decision making concerning specific programs and regulations to improve fishing vessel safety.
The NRC convened the Committee on Fishing Vessel Safety under the auspices of the Marine Board of the Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems. Committee members were selected to ensure a wide range of expertise and a broad spectrum of viewpoints. The principle guiding the constitution of the committee and its work, consistent with the policy of the NRC, was not to exclude members with potential biases that might accompany expertise vital to the study, but to seek balance and fair treatment. Members of the committee were selected for their experience in fishing vessel design, construction, and conversion; fishing vessel operations on the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts and in Alaska; fishing technology development; nautical education; maritime emergency response; safety data acquisition and analysis; maritime safety analysis and enforcement; and safety management and training. One committee member is a full-time commercial fisherman. A balance of regional, academic, industrial, and government perspectives was another major consideration. Biographies of committee members are provided in Appendix A.
The committee was assisted by the American Bureau of Shipping, National Council of Fishing Vessel Safety and Insurance, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Sea Grant College Program, National Transportation Safety Board, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and United States Coast Guard, all of whom designated liaison representatives.
SCOPE OF STUDY
The committee was asked to conduct a broad-based study of safety problems in the U.S. commercial fishing industry, including identification and characterization of safety problems. The committee was also asked to recommend general strategies for addressing the different classes of problems and, in accordance with congressional direction, to make a specific recommendation on the role of vessel inspection in improving safety. Development and preliminary analysis of individual improvement alternatives for each class of safety problem are within the scope of study. However, detailed assessment of implementation alternatives exceeds the scope of this report.
Throughout the study, the committee's principal focus was on the men and women who make up the harvest sector of the fishing industry and the vessels that are their workplace. The committee considered a broad range of safety options, some of which—if fully implemented—could potentially change the
basic character of the fishing industry. The operational and structural safety of fish tender and processing vessels was also addressed. Industrial aspects of fish processing are beyond the scope of this study.
To size the problem, the committee prepared its own description of the current commercial fishing industry—including people, boats, gear, fishing grounds, fish stocks, economic value, landings, and safety issues. This and other background papers prepared for the study are listed in Appendix B. Coast Guard casualty data were analyzed to characterize the nature, scope, and causes of safety problems. This information was compared with the agency's search and rescue (SAR) statistics. Fishing vessel compliance with safety regulations was estimated from law enforcement data compiled by the Coast Guard at the committee's request and from available Coast Guard reports. The committee also considered prior and parallel Coast Guard and industry safety initiatives and acquired and analyzed data, literature, and other reference materials from all over the world.
The committee recognized that safety problems occur on the water and are often regional in nature, and that the full character of problems in and solutions for the fishing industry could not be fully appreciated or ascertained without reaching out directly to the industry, the fishermen themselves, and entire fishing communities. Public discussion was stimulated to obtain grassroots perspectives on problems, their causes, possible solutions, and receptivity to safety improvement strategies.
Regional assessments of fishing vessel safety were commissioned for Alaska, the West Coast, Hawaii and the Southwest Pacific, the Caribbean and Gulf Coast, the South Atlantic, and New England/mid-Atlantic. The purpose of these efforts was to develop essential information from a cross section of regional and local sources. They included:
data on characteristics and economies of regional fisheries;
numbers and characteristics of the commercial fishing fleets;
numbers and types of fishermen, including qualifications and training;
descriptions of regional safety improvement resources and programs; and
regional perspectives on safety problems and improvement alternatives and how they might be addressed by the fishing industry, government, or other organizations.
The regional assessments were publicly announced and individual viewpoints solicited through trade publications. Committee members and staff
attended and led open discussions at conferences, trade shows, fishery management council meetings, trade association meetings, and similar events in order to meet personally with and obtain views about safety problems and solutions from segments of the fishing industry—including fishermen, trade associations, fishermen's wives' associations, marine surveyors, underwriters, vocational trainers, and regulators.
The committee developed an interview guide to obtain consistency in the regional assessments in order to gain insight on individual experiences and attitudes about fishing vessel safety. Information on education and training was developed through personal contact with training organizations and supplemented by correspondence with over 35 organizations having Coast Guard-approved maritime training courses.
In analyzing problems and identifying solutions, the committee drew on the expertise and insights of many experts. Their backgrounds included commercial fishing, fisheries management, insurance, personnel recruitment, safety and vocational training, anthropology and sociology, marine biology, maritime law, and epidemiology.
Chapter 1 discusses indications of widespread safety problems, perceived safety inadequacies, and the history of safety efforts. It also identifies the objectives and major thrusts of this report, describes the assessment and solution-identification approach, and introduces the concept in which individual safety alternatives are viewed as interacting elements of an integrated safety structure.
Chapter 2 describes the commercial fishing industry—the context in which safety is considered. It examines the participants, fisheries, fisheries management system, and legislation affecting commercial fishing. Assessed numbers of fishermen and fishing vessels are tabulated regionally to establish a baseline for measuring the scale of safety problems and solutions.
Chapter 3 reports and evaluates available safety data, identifies what is known about safety problems affecting the fishing industry, and identifies alternatives for improving data.
Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6 through Chapter 7 assess commercial fishing safety factors and identify and characterize possible solutions as they relate to fishing vessels and their operating equipment, survival situations and equipment, the role of fishermen in causing marine casualties, and external factors such as fisheries management practices, insurance, and weather services.
Chapter 8 blends the individual safety improvement alternatives into a comprehensive strategy and presents the committee's conclusions and recommendations.
The committee gratefully acknowledges the generous contributions of time and information provided by the liaison representatives, their agencies and organizations, and the many individuals in government, the fishing industry, marine education, and other organizations interested in improving safety aboard fishing industry vessels. Special thanks are extended to all those who communicated with the project by telephone, mail, and personal interviews.
Robert Roush of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researched and provided numerous Sea Grant reports relevant to safety in the fishing industry. Barbara O'Bannon of the National Marine Fisheries Service assembled and provided commercial fishery statistics. John Scherwin of the American Bureau of Shipping provided extensive technical support for development of Chapter 4. Dr. Bonnie McCay, Cook College, Rutgers University, presented her research on safety perspectives of New Jersey fishermen. Dr. Samuel Milham, State of Washington Department of Health, presented his use of proportional mortality rates for Washington State residents and their application to fishermen. Peggy Barry kept the committee posted on activities of the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Advisory Committee. Wiley Stewart, Cameron Wallace, and Christopher Hayes of the Canadian Coast Guard's Ship Safety Office provided details of fishing vessel safety activity in Canada. A. J. M. Legge and D. N. Gillstrom of the New Zealand Maritime Transport Division provided material on fishing vessel safety in New Zealand.
The support provided by many U.S. Coast Guard representatives nationwide was invaluable. Norman Lemley helped the committee clarify the scope of the project. Michael Karr provided technical assistance in developing Appendix G,
the overview of vessel inspection. Thomas Purtell, Sue Holden, and William Dyson provided invaluable support in generating casualty, search and rescue, and law enforcement data, respectively. Glenn Sicks and Michael Conway provided valuable insight and data on commercial fishing and Coast Guard law enforcement in Alaska. Robert Markle and the staff of the Survival Systems Branch, Coast Guard Headquarters, provided valuable technical support for development of Chapter 6 and Appendix I. Bruce Piccard provided information on international licensing programs and the Coast Guard's development of a licensing plan.
Very special thanks are extended to the regional coordinators, through whom the committee was able to involve a broad cross section of the fishing industry in the study and develop data: North Atlantic, Dennis Nixon; South Atlantic, Robert Jones and John Maiolo; Gulf/Caribbean, Robert Jones and Dewayne Hollin; West Coast, Robert Jacobson, Ginny Goblirsch, and Fred Van Noy; Alaska, Nancy Munro and the staff of Saltwater Productions; and Hawaii/Southwest Pacific, Robert Bourke. The support of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission in cosponsoring the West Coast regional assessment is gratefully acknowledged.
The extraordinary cooperation and interest in the committee's work of so many knowledgeable individuals were both gratifying and essential.
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Samuel O. Thier is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
In every coastal region of the United States, commercial fishing industry vessels break down, are wrecked, or are lost, and fishermen are injured or die. The industry has a fatality rate comparable to those of miners, loggers, log truck drivers, and members of other high-risk occupations. Commercial fishing exposes fishermen to danger the entire time they are aboard their vessels—during transit, when fishing, and while resting. The annual toll in lives and property —on the average, over 100 deaths and 250 vessels lost—is a heavy price to pay for this small but economically important industry. The cost in terms of injuries is extensive, but poorly documented. In Alaska alone (one state that provides injury compensation for fishermen), about 1 in 20 fishermen with commercial fishing licenses requested compensation for injuries in fiscal year 1987 (FY 87). But, even this represents only a portion of the work-related injuries that occurred in the Alaska fishing industry.
Finding the fishing industry's safety record unacceptable, Congress passed the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act of 1988 (CFIVSA, P.L. 100-424), mandating new safety requirements across the entire fishing fleet. The act instructed the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a “Fishing Industry Vessel Inspection Study” under the auspices of the National Academy of Engineering. The act requires an assessment of safety problems and a specific recommendation on whether a vessel inspection program should be implemented.
WHAT ARE THE SAFETY PROBLEMS?
The assessment found that no single causal factor dominates fishing industry casualties. Instead, there is a complex interaction involving vessels, equipment,
fishermen, the environment, and external factors such as fisheries management practices. These interactions vary, creating different situations involving life- or vessel-threatening events throughout the fishing fleet and on all fishing grounds. However, causal relationships are not well documented or understood.
The number of hull and equipment failures and related fatalities is high and varies significantly by region and vessel size. For example, material failure incidents are very high along the West Coast and North Atlantic, groundings occur relatively more frequently in Alaska, and collisions stand out as a safety problem on the Gulf Coast. The largest aggregate number of vessel casualties and fatalities involves vessels under 79 feet long. However, casualties and fatalities involving vessels 79 feet or greater in length occur at a substantially higher rate and tend to be more serious in terms of dollar losses and human costs. Estimated fatality rates increase dramatically with vessel size and, for vessels 50 feet or greater in length, exceed those of other high-risk industries. Estimated fatality rates for vessels 65 feet or greater in length are extraordinarily high, with fatalities more likely to occur from occupational causes, such as being caught in moving machinery, than from casualties to the vessel. There may also be variations based on fishery and fishing gear, although this cannot be ascertained from available data.
Human factors are implicated as a direct or secondary cause in many incidents—especially those involving capsizings, collisions, and groundings, and accidents resulting in fatalities. When vessels are exposed to sudden, catastrophic loss, whatever protective clothing fishermen are wearing is frequently their only hope for survival. Yet, most fishermen do not routinely wear protective clothing or safety equipment with inherent flotation. Even when there is enough time to orderly abandon ship, they often do not have adequate survival equipment or have not prepared themselves to don or deploy it under duress.
Other leading fishing nations—such as New Zealand, Japan, Norway, and Great Britain—use formal measures to improve professional competence among fishermen and the material condition of their vessels. In contrast, the U.S. fishing industry and government have pursued voluntary, piecemeal safety measures that lack cohesive leadership or coordination and are constrained by limited resources. While improvements to safety have been experienced on a vessel-by-vessel, person-by-person basis industrywide, voluntary measures have not achieved measurable results.
CAN SAFETY BE IMPROVED?
The committee concluded that the commercial fishing industry can be made safer by mandating systematic, industrywide attention to:
suitability and physical condition of vessels and equipment; and
safe operational and occupational practices.
The committee recommends a comprehensive, integrated strategy to ensure that each safety problem is fully considered. This strategy includes developing and implementing an appropriate range of alternatives that maintain balance among other program elements and having resources available to implement them. It embodies the concept of starting with least-cost, least-intrusive mandatory measures that bring existing endeavors together into a unified program and advancing to more-stringent intervention if safety goals and objectives are not met. Safety records in different segments of the industry will need to be accommodated and will require effective monitoring to evaluate whether safety measures have the desired effect.
Specifically, the committee recommends:
basic safety and survival training for fishermen;
skills development for vessel operators;
some form of certificate or license to validate that essential skills have been acquired and to motivate attention to safety; and
an inspection program for vessels (beginning with compulsory self-inspection with audits) to ensure that they are fit for service.
The Coast Guard should lead and coordinate the program with support from other federal agencies, the fishing industry, fishery management organizations, naval architects, marine surveyors, marine educators, insurance underwriters, and others. To increase attention to safety as an element of fisheries management, the Secretary of Transportation and Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) should petition Congress to establish a Coast Guard flag officer as a voting member on each regional fishery management council. Congress should provide additional enabling authority and the resources needed to implement these measures. Ultimately, the level of federal and industry resources that can be committed to improving safety will be a principal determinant of the configuration of the resulting programs.