Fishing Vessel Safety and Fisheries Management

Commercial fishing is a dangerous occupation, and accidents are bound to happen given the
operational environment within which fishing is conducted. NOAA Fisheries is promoting the
adoption of catch share based fishery management programs nation-wide. Among other things,
improvements in vessel safety have been identified as a rationale for promoting rights or catch
share based management regimes. Furthermore, vessel safety has been selected as a key
performance measure, yet relatively little research has been conducted to quantify changes in
accident rates or risk taking. The proposed study will examine the effects of changes in fisheries
management on fishing vessel safety. The study will focus on the identification and
quantification of possible links between specific regulatory arrangements and measures of
fishing vessel accident frequency and severity. State-of-the-art statistical techniques will be
applied to the data on fishing trips, fishing vessel accidents, and weather and regulatory
conditions to estimate the functions linking vessel safety and a set of independent variables (e.g.,
vessel and operational conditions, expected economic payoffs, risk perception, and fisheries
management). Using a survey-based approach, we will also assess changes in safety equipment
acquisition and maintenance patterns, as well as changes in risk-taking behaviors. This will
allow us to explore patterns in fishers’ safety behavior and perceptions in response to the
regulatory changes. The study will be designed as a demonstration project that shows the logic
and methods that can be used to conduct similar analyses of other fisheries and in different
regions in the U.S.