Perceptions of occupational risk by US commercial fishermen

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Fishing safety
Risk perception
Commercial fishing
The dangers associated with commercial fishing are well documented, and fishermen consistently face one of the highest job-related mortality risks of all US occupations. This study explored fishermen’s perceptions of these risks in a representative sample of Maine commercial fishing vessel captains. Data were collected on sociodemographic characteristics and risk preferences during at sea boardings of working commercial fishing vessels (n=233) along the full extent of the Maine coastline. Trends in perceived risk were explored across the various sociodemographic categories. Fishermen in this study consistently undervalued their true occupational risk, and rated it as average despite consistent evidence to the contrary. Those more likely to downgrade the risk of fishing included state registered vessels and those found to be non-compliant with existing safety regulations. Less educated fishermen and those that come from a fishing family were also more likely to underrate the risks, as were those fishermen that displayed risk-loving tendencies in other facets of their lives such as smokers and those that did not use seat belts. Middle-aged fishermen were also more likely underrate the risk than the youngest and oldest groups, suggesting that overconfidence grows and then wanes over time. The results of this study strongly suggest that the current safety training and awareness programs targeting fishermen are inadequate. Furthermore, widespread voluntary participation in organized safety training is unlikely since the majority of fishermen believed that the risks were not relevant to their own activities.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2011. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Elsevier B.V. for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Marine Policy 36 (2012): 28-33, doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2011.03.005.
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