Commercial fishing among the most hazardous professions for North Carolina workers

Our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers know that commercial fishing is a massive, multi-million dollar industry that employs thousands of North Carolina workers each year.

In 2007 alone, North Carolina commercial fishermen brought in just shy of 63 million pounds of shellfish and fish for a combined commercial landing worth more than $82.2 million. North Carolina Property Mappers report that North Carolina enjoys more than 300 miles of Atlantic coastline, has more than 1,500 lakes that are 10-acres or larger, maps 37,000 miles of freshwater streams and is home to 17 major river basins. In fact, the tallest lighthouse in the U.S. is located in Cape Hatteras.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, despite a dramatic drop in the number of commercial fishing fatalities since a 2006 spike along the eight states that comprise the Mid- and South-Atlantic region, North Carolina has reported the highest number of commercial fishing fatalities from 2000 to 2008.

During that eight year period, 51 commercial fishermen – on average, six per year – died while fishing the Mid- to South Atlantic. In 45 percent of cases, death was caused by a vessel disaster and falls overboard claimed another 35 percent of lives at sea. The remaining 20 percent of fatalities were attributed to on-board or on-shore accidents or diving injuries. More than two-thirds of the fatalities were tied to shellfishing.

The Center for Disease Control reports that there are 80,000 commercial fishing vessels in the U.S. that employ between 80,000 and 160,000 commercial fishermen. In 2007, commercial fishing was the most dangerous job in the U.S., and the commercial fishing industry consistently ranks among the highest for occupational fatality rates in the country.

Among other things, the U.S. Coast Guard recommends completion of boater safety training courses and encourages all commercial fishermen to wear personal floatation devices equipped with GPS-locator devices. But, perhaps one of the most important and potentially life-saving acts a captain or crew member can complete before heading out is filing a detailed float plan with a trusted person at home. This document can be provided to any rescue organization in the event a vessel fails to return to dock when expected.

If you have been injured, or someone you love has been injured or killed in a work-related accident, talking with the North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Lee & Smith can help you better understand your rights. Call us at 1-800-887-1965 or contact our law offices online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights. Our service areas include Albemarle to Greensboro to Winston-Salem to all points in between.

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