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Despite end of oyster season, safety continues to be concern

Oyster fishermen know about challenges. Coastal erosion, the effects of the 2010 BP petroleum spill and climate change have greatly affected their harvests in the past several years. And another permanent challenge continues to be the dangers that come with their job.

After roughly eight months, the oyster season in the Gulf region comes to a close at the end of April. Each year, this group of loyal fishermen dredges the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to secure the tasty and much-desired oyster for local markets, restaurants, supermarkets and overseas customers. For years, Louisiana has been the largest oyster-producing state, usually accounting for one-third of the country’s annual harvest. Consumers seem to take for granted the dangers faced by the fishermen who brought that sea morsel to their plates.

Four deaths in oyster industry

Commercial fishermen continue to have one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. It is not unheard of for these workers to face injuries such as fractures, concussions, loss of limbs and spinal cord-related trauma. They can succumb to these injuries as a number of fishermen lose their lives every year on the job.

From 2010 to 2014, the Gulf of Mexico’s commercial fishing industry recorded 49 fatalities, noted the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The accident categories include vessel disasters, falls overboard, onboard fatalities, offshore fatalities and diving accidents

The shrimp industry recorded the most fatalities with 25 – more than half from the Gulf region. The snapper/grouper segment recorded the second most with nine, followed by the oyster industry with four. Of those four oyster-related fatalities, two were attributed to falls overboard and two to vessel disasters.

Improvements in job training and a stronger focus on safety measures would go a long way to minimize injuries and fatalities in the commercial fishing industry. We owe it to them, and we want to see those oyster fishermen succeed every year and hope the industry recovers.