About half of fishing industry deaths are from boats capsizing in storms or sinking from hull damage, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Help under such circumstances is often many miles away.
In the past, dangers had been made worse by fishing practices such as derby systems, where boats try to maximize the amount of fish they catch before a cap for the season is reached. The government has instituted an individual quota system for many fisheries now, allowing boats to fill their assigned catch any time during the season.
Crabbers, for example, no longer have to venture out in foul weather or work all night to beat others in a derby. The change has turned king crab fishing from "the deadliest catch to the safest catch," said Jake Jacobsen, director of Inter-Cooperative Exchange, a cooperative of Bering Sea crab fishermen.