You’ll Never Believe How Many Fishing-Related Deaths Occur Each Year: Report

by Lauren Boisvert
(Photo by Ray Massey/Getty Images)

According to a report released on Thursday, an astronomical number of people die in fishing-related incidents every year around the world. This recent report claims the amount has tripled from previous reports, and that many of these deaths were preventable.

More than 100,000 fatalities occur annually, according to the report, which was based on research by the Fish Safety Foundation commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Many of these deaths happen aboard commercial fishing vessels, but not all. Recreational fishing has its dangers also.

Private fishing has become more dangerous as anglers must travel further and wade deeper into lakes and rivers. Areas around shorelines have become overfished, or fish have migrated into deeper and more distant waters, according to a report from ABC News. Local governments have cut down on regular patrols and search and rescue because of the cost of fuel for boats and helicopters. A lot of these deaths are preventable.

As for commercial fishing, that’s where a lot of the dangers lie. Weather conditions in distant, Arctic oceans cause deaths by sweeping someone overboard. But, exploitation, child labor, and illegal, unregulated fishing greatly add to the number of fishing fatalities. Additionally, “overfishing, climate change, armed conflicts, and poverty” exacerbate the issue.

“With 3 billion people reliant on seafood and the demand expected to rise, stronger policies are urgently needed to keep fishers safe, including ones that address the true drivers of these deaths,” said Peter Horn, a project director with Pew International’s fisheries project.

 According to Eric Holliday, chief executive of the non-profit Fish Safety Foundation, a lot of commercial fishing fleets fail to report deaths, which can skew the data and obscure the realities of the industry. It is dangerous, and there are a lot of deaths. In better news, though, Alaska recently closed out its commercial fishing season with no fatalities for the first time since 2015.

Among the deaths, the report found that the areas with the most were African fisheries and the Pacific Islands. Additionally, deaths are not just happening on distant ocean-faring commercial vessels. The report stated that “between 1,800 and 5,000 people per 100,000” die on Lake Victoria in Africa every year. According to Godfrey Kiwanda, the former Ugandan state minister for tourism, that number may be much higher because people die in remote swamps and reservoirs and are not reported.

There is also the risk of decompression sickness from diving. This is a huge issue among lobster, conch, and sea cucumber fisheries. Divers are forced to make repeated deep dives, which puts stress on their bodies, eventually turning fatal.

The report stated that the most dangerous fishing industry is raft fishing in Myanmar. Thousands of men are recruited for the dangerous fishing, paid a measly sum in advance. They fish from “small bamboo platforms on top of foam blocks up to 100 kilometers offshore,” writes ABC News. They suffer from extreme dehydration and even starvation if there are no supply boats. Additionally, these fishermen experience “ulcers, beriberi from lack of vitamin B, tuberculosis, and burst arteries.”

Many of these deaths could be prevented with more regulation, improved conditions, and, overall, outlawing slave labor and child labor. A lot of it comes down to exploitation and detrimental practices, despite efforts to stop it. Safer fishing is paramount if we want to affect the number of fishing-related deaths at all.