Forty fishermen lost their lives last year, according to the Labor Department's annual report on workplace fatalities.
But things used to be much worse: "Conditions were so bad, the loss of life and vessels was so great that getting insurance was starting to be a major problem," said Leslie Hughes, who founded the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners' Association Vessel Safety Program, which trains fishermen in safety skills such as fire prevention, damage control and cold water survival.
The training has helped, but so have big changes to the fishing quota system. Instead of each crew working around the clock in all sorts of weather to catch as many fish as they can before a fleet-wide cap is reached, boats get assigned individual quotas they can fill at anytime within the season.
"Under the old system, they had to get out as soon as they could and fish as quickly as they could," said Hughes. "They can get out of the weather now."
Job postings for skilled factory workers have surged 152% since 2009, an indication that domestic manufacturing is on a comeback.