A tragic maritime accident last week off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand resulted in the deaths of seven people, with one not recovered. The boat capsized trying to come back into port in rough waters. Despite the large rescue operation, not all could be saved. The incident highlights the risks of recreational, charter, and commercial fishing in all parts of the world.
Charter Fishing Boat Capsized
Only three of eleven people survived the tragic accident that occurred in Kaipara Harbor on November 26th. The boat, the Francie, had been chartered for fishing and was a twelve-meter boat designed and fitted to hold up to 20 people. A call came from the boat in the afternoon that it would be traversing a dangerous sand bar to come back into port.
At the time, the sea condition was rough, with swells that were rising up to twelve feet. There were five other boats in Kaipara Harbor at the same time, and none of them followed the Francie in attempting to make the crossing. The boat ultimately capsized in the big waves and a large rescue effort was initiated immediately. Only three people could be saved. One survivor managed to swim to shore, while two others were pulled from the water by rescue helicopters. One person from the boat could not be found and seven bodies were recovered.
The cause of the accident was likely the rough waters and large swells, but investigators are currently trying to determine if any one person or people could be to blame. It may be that the captain of the chartered boat made a poor decision in attempting to cross the sandbar while the waters were so rough. That five other boats decided it was too dangerous to cross was telling, but officials have not yet made a statement about negligence.
Commercial Fishing among Most Dangerous Industries
Anywhere in the world, fishing in coastal waters and in the oceans is dangerous. Whether it is a chartered fishing boat taking tourists out to fish, as in the New Zealand incident, or a commercial fishing vessel with professional fishermen, it is risky. The recent tragedy highlights just how dangerous it is to go out to sea on these smaller vessels. Shipping boats are much more susceptible to the consequences of bad weather and rough water than larger vessels are.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous industries of all types of work. The fatality rate in the industry is 39 times higher than the average. Commercial fishermen may be injured or killed in accidents like the recent capsizing, but they also face dangers from the equipment they use, bad weather, and long working hours.
Commercial fishermen and workers aboard chartered fishing boats in the U.S. have maritime laws to back them up in the event an accident kills or injures them. Laws like the Jones Act provide for ways to be compensated in the event of an accident. Fishermen and charter workers need to be aware of their rights and should work with an experienced maritime lawyer if injured on the job.