American Seafoods Group is one of the largest fishing companies in North America and the world. It is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, and has a fleet of boats on which workers haul in and process seafood. Accidents that have happened aboard these commercial fishing vessels have left many workers injured.
About American Seafoods
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American Seafoods Group comprises two divisions:
- American Seafoods Company fishes, harvests, processes, and distributes fish and other types of seafood in the U.S. The fleet includes six large catcher and processor vessels.
- American Marine Ingredients is newer and uses the catch from American Seafoods Company to develop and distribute unique seafood products.
American Seafoods Company is the older part of the group and the one devoted to fishing. The company largely catches and processes seafood in the Pacific Northwest and in Alaskan waters.
Common types of catches for the company include Alaska Pollock, sole, yellowfin, Pacific hake, and Pacific cod. American Seafoods employs over 1,000 people, many working on one of the six state-of-the-art fishing vessels.
American Seafoods History
American Seafoods was founded in Seattle in 1988. For such a young maritime company, it has worked hard to become a giant in the commercial fishing industry.
Growth has come from opening foreign sales offices, acquiring bigger and better fishing vessels, and acquiring other, smaller fishing companies.
These acquisitions have occurred frequently over the years, including the purchase of Southern Pride Catfish Company, Highland Light, and Pacific Longline Company.
The American Seafoods fleet includes six catcher processors. These are large ships that both catch fish and allow workers to process the fish on board.
One of the earliest members of the fleet is the American Dynasty, a stern trawler with a two-level processing factory. It harvests Alaska pollock, Pacific hake, and sole.
Other American Seafoods vessels include:
- The American Triumph, with the company’s largest frozen hold capacity
- The Northern Eagle, rebuilt in 2012
- The Northern Jaeger
- The Ocean Rover
- The Katie Ann, built in 1969 and, at the time, one of the first U.S. fishing vessels to include fishing and processing capabilities
American Seafoods Worker Accidents
Accidents in the commercial fishing industry are all too common. Commercial fishing vessels are dangerous workplaces for many reasons:
- Many vessels go out in winter when water and weather are at their worst. They face harsh weather, hypothermia, frostbite, and the risk of falling overboard.
- They also risk being injured by trawling and processing equipment.
- Fishermen often do repetitive jobs, which can lead to overuse injuries.
- Sometimes the injury to a worker is an illness and reflects the lack of medical care these fishermen have when on the job working long and grueling hours.
These are just a few examples of accidents, injuries, and illnesses that have occurred in American Seafoods workers:
Fatality Due to Lack of Medical Care
Cuong Dang lost his life on the Northern Eagle after three weeks at sea. He died from complications related to diabetes, a chronic but treatable medical condition. The tragedy reflected how little medical care fishermen get on these jobs for weeks or months at sea.
Repetitive Motion Injury
Sometimes it is simply the repetitive nature of the work that causes harm. This was the case for an American Seafoods worker who hurt his shoulder after working in the American Dynasty.
His shoulder was injured after transferring fish from a conveyer belt to a processing machine. The repetitive motion involved caused the injury.
Severe Injuries After a Fall
In 1999 another American Seafoods worker was injured on one of the fleet vessels. This man was working on the Ocean Rover when a deck rail collapsed, and he fell from the deck.
The vessel was in port, so he fell twenty feet onto the dock below. In the fall, the man was severely injured and brought a suit against the company to seek compensation.
Knee Injuries on a Vessel
Another worker injured both knees in two incidents aboard American Seafoods vessels and contended that the company was negligent.
In the first instance, he was making repairs to a conveyor belt. Instead of lying under the machine, he squatted, lost his balance, and fell and injured one knee. He injured the other knee in a similar instance. The worker claimed he was pushed to make the repairs quickly, so he fell and hurt himself.
Worker Rights and Maritime Law
These examples of workers with a maritime company like American Seafoods getting injured or even killed on the job are uncommon, especially in fishing.
These workers put themselves in harm’s way every day on the job. Even experienced and well-trained workers in this industry can be injured because of equipment failure, human error, or other reasons.
Employers like American Seafoods are supposed to provide workers with a reasonably safe work environment. This means providing seaworthy vessels, equipment that works well, and training, among other things, to keep workers safe.
When companies don’t provide a safe workplace, they may be negligent and may have to pay workers to compensate them for their injuries.
Most workers aboard fishing vessels are covered under the Jones Act, one of many maritime laws designed to protect maritime workers and provide a way to get monetary damages after a workplace accident.
The Jones Act specifically covers seamen, those workers who spend a significant portion of work time on seafaring vessels. The law allows these workers to bring a lawsuit against an employer and get compensation if the employer can be found to be even partially negligent in an accident and injury.
The compensation maritime laws allow includes money for medical bills, lost wages, pain, suffering, and future earnings if the injury is bad enough to affect the future ability to work.
If you were hurt on the job working for a company like American Seafoods, you could take advantage of maritime laws to get the money you need to get your life back together. All it takes is the advice of a professional maritime lawyer to help you decide what steps to take next.