Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. because of rough weather, equipment accidents, and more. Seiner fishing is one of the most common types of commercial fishing. If you work on a seiner fishing boat and have been injured, whether due to negligence or not, you have a right to seek compensation.
The Risks of Seiner Fishing
The equipment used to catch the fish distinguishes a seiner boat from other commercial fishing boats. A seine is a large dragnet that is weighted at the bottom. This allows the net to sink in the water at one end while floats keep it near the surface at the other.
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The result is a vertical net in the water that can trap fish as they swim toward it. A purse seine makes a complete circle in the water and is gathered together at the top, like a purse, to catch the fish.
There are many reasons why commercial fishing in a seiner boat is so dangerous. The statistics are clear: commercial fishing, on seiners and other boats, causes more injuries and fatalities than any other type of industry.
Rough Waters and Weather
Many seiners work off the coast of Alaska, in the Pacific Ocean, and in the Bering Sea, where weather can be brutal and waters dangerous.
Hypothermia, fatigue, and falls overboard due to rough waters and bad weather account for many accidents and fatalities aboard seiners in these regions.
Long Working Hours
Working aboard a seiner means working long hours, being exposed to freezing weather, and risking accidents and injuries. Fatigue is common, especially if a worker has not been allowed the breaks to which he is entitled.
Not having the proper protective gear for cold, wet weather can also be problematic. Workers may experience hypothermia or frostbite from not having the appropriate clothing or being unable to take breaks.
In addition to the weather and water risks, the equipment used aboard seiners is big, heavy, and dangerous. For instance, the large winch used to operate the seine can cause accidents and even kill workers if it malfunctions.
Workers who are not adequately trained or equipment not maintained well increase the risk that these accidents may happen and result in an injury, or the worst case scenario, a death. Fatigue is also a risk factor for these kinds of accidents.
Examples of Seiner Accidents
Accidents in the commercial fishing industry don’t always make the news, but they are common. In many of these accidents, some negligence could be blamed, and the injuries could have been prevented with proper precautions.
When failure causes a seiner worker to be injured or killed, the person liable could face criminal charges, and the injured party becomes entitled to monetary damages.
One such tragic accident that could have been prevented occurred in the waters off Kodiak, Alaska. A seiner there capsized, resulting in the deaths of four workers aboard the boat.
An investigation determined that the boat was not appropriate for the rough waters in which it was working, which is considered negligence. The boat should never have been out on those waters, and someone made a bad judgment call in sending it out. Four workers paid for that mistake with their lives.
Another accident aboard a seiner occurred in New Zealand in 2005. The seiner boat was using a purse seine to fish when part of the net caught on a drum block. The net pulled back, and a worker’s finger was caught in it. The net severed it, and the worker lost his finger.
The supervisors in charge that day were held liable because they never reported the injury, although the worker was provided with adequate medical care following the incident.
Typical Seiner Injuries
There are many ways in which a worker aboard a seiner could be injured. According to research statistics, most injuries aboard seiners in Alaskan waters that are serious enough to require hospitalization are caused by deck machinery.
- Getting Caught in Equipment. A major issue with deck machinery on seiners is the possibility of getting tangled in the net or winch line. On too many boats, the controls for the machinery are out of reach of the danger zone. A worker may get tangled and cannot stop the equipment from moving. This can be very dangerous.
- Inadequately Trained Workers. Deck machinery can also cause accidents when workers are not trained in using it correctly or when safety training has not been adequate.
- Inadequately Maintained Equipment. When machinery has not been maintained, it can malfunctions and cause accidents and injuries.
- Trip and Fall Accidents. Machinery and other equipment or cargo on deck can also cause accidents, such as strip hazards or knocking crew members overboard.
Weather and water are the other main ways seiner workers get injured. Working in freezing conditions means that workers are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia.
This is especially true when workers are not given the proper protective equipment or the time to go below deck for breaks and to warm up. Without breaks, workers are also susceptible to fatigue, which can cause accidents and injuries.
Seiner Injuries and Negligence
Most accidents, injuries, and fatalities on seiner boats are tragically preventable. Captains and ship owners are often found negligent in these cases.
Common types of negligence in seiner accidents include:
- Not providing adequate training for workers
- Not keeping equipment and machinery running and functioning correctly
- Failing to provide safety gear
- Insufficient break time for workers
Legal Rights for Injured Seiner Workers
If you work aboard a seiner boat, you are taking a risk for your career. You have the right to compensation if you are injured on the job. If your employer denies you compensation, you can seek legal aid to get you the money you deserve.
Whether the accident was caused by negligence or not, there are legal avenues to getting money to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you lost a loved one to a seiner accident, you also have rights to compensation. Get the guidance of an experienced maritime lawyer to help you decide what to do about the compensation you are owed.