Sea Grant Extension's safety training saves fishermen's lives

The Michele Ann boat
The Michele Ann's crew says the training saved their lives and crab boat after it caught fire. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)

More than 500 crewmembers have completed the classes since 1991

Eighty-six commercial fishermen died on the job in Washington, Oregon and California between 2000 and 2009. Almost 70 percent drowned following a disaster that forced them to abandon ship. The Dungeness crab sector saw the highest number with 27 fatalities. That's tragic news for Oregon's 323-boat crab fleet, which hauled in $49 million of the crustacean in the 2012-2013 season.

In hopes of avoiding such deaths, Oregon Sea Grant Extension, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, offers free emergency training to commercial fishermen. These hands-on classes, complete with artificial smoke, teach participants how to put on survival suits to guard against hypothermia, jump into the water, enter a life raft, fight a fire, stop leaks and shoot off flares. Graduates of the training are qualified to run Coast Guard-required safety drills on their own vessels.

Oregon's commercial fishing fleet was made up of 1,139 vessels that landed $155 million of fish and shellfish in 2013 and generated more than 19,000 jobs.

Sources: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission; Oregon Employment Department; Kaety Hildenbrand, marine fisheries educator with OSU's Oregon Sea Grant Extension; Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

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