Sea Fishing: the world’s deadliest occupation

fishing trawler with seagulls

Commercial fishing is a dangerous occupation
Image: Shutterstock

Think of a dangerous job and lion tamers, sword swallowers, bomb disposal experts or secret agents normally spring to mind. But next time you’re eating fish, spare a thought for the brave commercial fisherman. Figures from the United States and the UK confirm that ‘sea fishing’ is by far the most dangerous occupation.

The U.S.A is often portrayed in movies as a land of gun toting cops roaring around in patrol cars, stopping only to partake in shootouts with crooks. However the proportion of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty is only half that of commercial fishermen.

According to figures released by the US Government, the rate of fatal injuries among fishermen stood at a staggering 200 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2009. Compare this to the figure of 29 for U.S. fire fighters and that should give you an idea of just how dangerous fishing is.

UK statistics are much the same; figures released ten years ago showed that commercial fishing was 50 times more dangerous than the average occupation.


Dr Steven Roberts who analysed official fatality rates across a broad spectrum of occupations between 1976 and 1995 found that many deaths in fishing were caused by trawlers going down in bad weather. Also adding significant numbers to the body count were collisions at sea and groundings.

Highlighted as being a particular risk was the operation of small trawlers in high seas and the deployment of nets in hazardous conditions.

The exceptionally high rate of fatalities in the sea fishing industry are, says Dr Roberts, the result of a unique combination of exposure to severe weather conditions, coupled with heavy economic pressures.