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Commercial Fishing: Has Technology Made the Industry Safe...Enough?

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The Fishing Vessel Safety Act, signed into law on September 9, 1988, was the first comprehensive legislation to be enacted in this country with the goal of reducing industry fatality rates. Paramount in the new regulations were provisions for the mandatory carriage of safety equipment aboard all commercial fishing vessels, depending on the vessel's route, size, and build date. The introduction of this technology had a measurable impact on reducing both vessel losses and fatalities, but the downward trends seen within the first ten years of the Act's enactment have since leveled off and are holding steady at what remains unacceptably high rates in comparison to other industries. This article argues that human and economic factors are limiting the effectiveness of available technology and contributing to this statistical plateau. Specific examples of these factors are provided, and possible solutions examined in the context of fishing vessel casualties and safety enforcement. Additionally, this article examines the roles of industry members and regulators as they work towards the shared goal of realizing a safe commercial fishing industry. However, inherent in this goal is realizing when these objectives have been achieved—and, given the complex nature of fishing vessel casualties, this realization may be the most difficult challenge of all.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2006

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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