CAPE COD TIMES: Take advantage of fishermen safety training
October 12, 2012 -- The most dangerous American fishery is in the Northeast, not in Alaska. From 2000 to 2009, workers in the Northeast's groundfish fishery, which includes cod and haddock, were 37 times more likely to die on the job than a police officer. That's why the Massachusetts Fishing Partnership is offering free survival training for commercial fishermen from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 19 at Stage Harbor in Chatham.
The hands-on training will be conducted by Coast Guard-certified fishing vessel safety instructors. The training includes onboard firefighting, man-overboard procedures, flooding and pump operations, flares and EPIRBs, survival suit deployment, life raft equipment, helicopter hoist procedures and first aid.
The Visiting Nurse Association and the Chatham Health Department will also offer free tetanus and flu shots as well as Tdap and pneumonia vaccines for attendees and their families from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Such training and education are critical. An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, NPR News and WBUR in Boston recently found that commercial fishing in the Northeast operates in a cultural tradition and regulatory environment that thwarts safety improvements.
In 1988, Congress required fishing boats to carry lifeboats, personal flotation devices and other safety equipment. But unlike inspections of passenger ferries and other commercial vessels, fishing boats are not regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.
Part of the problem is the culture. Fishermen are tough. Working in an industry against the caprices of weather and an unforgiving ocean requires ruggedness, individuality, ingenuity and perseverance. But toughness sometimes works against them when it comes time to ask for help or training.
In Alaska, a sharper focus on safety reduced the number of fatalities in the fishing industry there. In recent years, fishermen, state regulators and the Coast Guard have worked together to make fishing less deadly.
Read the full editorial from the Cape Cod Times at the New Bedford Standard Times