The Gulf shrimp season is here along with related safety hazards

| Jun 1, 2021 | Maritime Law |

Shrimp landings seem to be on the rebound in the Gulf region. The 2.3 million pounds of shrimp caught in April marked a slight increase from the previous month. Although still below historic averages, shrimp landings have seen a good bump up from last year’s declining numbers partially attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With shrimp season in the early months, shrimpers have enthusiastically prepped their boats and nets, inspected their equipment, assembled their crews and headed out to the waters with the goal of bringing back plenty of those tasty critters for local and nationwide markets along with restaurants. But the shrimp crews also need to understand the dangers they face; dangers that cause serious or fatal injuries.

Shrimp industry accounted for most fatalities in Gulf

Many injuries in commercial fishing are attributed to faulty equipment and poor training. And the shrimp industry has more than its share of fatalities, accounting for the most fishing fleet deaths in the Gulf of Mexico during the five-year period of 2010 to 2014, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Of the 49 fatalities during that time, more than half – 25 – came from the shrimp industry. Here is a breakdown of those fatalities in the shrimp industry:

  • Vessel disasters: 9
  • Onboard fatalities: 8
  • Falls overboard: 6
  • Diving incidents: 2

Among the injuries shrimpers face stem from having their hands, arms and clothing get caught in the cables of winches. A winch is a necessary device that hauls in and releases cable for bringing in shrimp catches. It is considered one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on a shrimp boat. Resulting injuries include head injuries, serious fractures and amputations. NIOSH has tested safer and newer winch guards that may better protect fishermen.

During shrimp season, shrimpers do their best to land abundant catches savored by the public who enjoy their delicious taste. But many people do not give much thought to how the shrimp were caught and the potential dangers that come with commercial fishing.