The MSA’s National Standard 10 states: Conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, promote the safety of human life at sea. National Standard 10 guidelines may be found at 50 CFR 600.355. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) regularly assess the causes of loss of life at sea for U.S. waters nationwide. Information on fishing vessel safety may be found on the NIOSH website. The most recent NIOSH summary of fatalities in West Coast fisheries was published in 2017, covering the period 2010-2014.
The purpose of this initiative is to assess how Council fishery management policies, in concert with the activities conducted or authorized by other Federal and state agencies, affect West Coast fishing vessel safety. By looking across fisheries, the Council will be better able to assess how fisheries regulations interact with each other, whether those interactions compromise fishing vessel safety, and how safety concerns might change in the face of a variable and changing climate. West Coast fishing vessels commonly engage in multiple fisheries, which means that vessel owners, captains, and crew have to think about the tradeoffs in participating in various fisheries throughout the year. Taking a broad, ecosystem-based approach to a safety review would better account for the challenges fisheries participants face as they plan their work in various West Coast fisheries.
To implement this initiative, the Council could first ask its Enforcement Consultants Committee, particularly those representatives from the USCG, to coordinate an ad hoc advisory committee that would assess safety incidents and hazards in West Coast fisheries. The Council, its advisory bodies, and the public might be interested in knowing whether fishing vessel safety varies by: fishery or gear type, weather or ocean conditions, age/experience of vessel captains and crew; age or condition of vessels; port location; or management program. The advisory committee could consist of Federal, state, and tribal safety and enforcement experts; fishing vessel operators; safety of life at sea trainers; advisors from NIOSH; and social scientists with experience assessing safety incidents in U.S. fisheries.
The advisory committee for this initiative would share the results of its assessments with the Council, advisory bodies, and the public to both make recommendations on and seek ideas for revisions to fishing regulations that could improve West Coast fishing vessel safety while continuing to meet fishery conservation and management goals. This process may also shed light on measures outside Council authority, such as ways to foster technological innovation in weather forecasting and reporting and increase participation in, and compliance with, safety improvement programs.