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Shrimp season arrives, so focus on safety

With the arrival of spring shrimp season, a number of shrimpers are hesitantly optimistic that this year’s harvest will improve upon the challenging one from last year. A $73 million federal boost in fishing disaster funds may offset some of those financial issues, but money is not the only concern.

Many dangers exist for shrimpers while out on the gulf pursuing their next haul, bound for local markets and restaurants as well as markets around the country and around the world. Not only are shrimpers concerned about getting large enough hauls, but they also are exposed to many job hazards.

Shrimp fleet recorded most fatalities

Improper training and faulty equipment often account for the many injuries and fatalities within the commercial fishing industry.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the shrimp industry ranked first in fatalities among all other fishing fleets in the Gulf of Mexico from 2010 to 2014. The shrimp fleet accounted for 25 deaths, or more than half of the total 49 fatalities recorded during that five-year period. The leading causes of death among shrimpers were vessel disasters, onboard injuries and falls overboard. Diving incidents also accounted for fatalities in the shrimp industry.

Shrimpers also are susceptible to winch entanglements in which they sustain fractures and amputations to their hands and arms. This happens when their hand or arm becomes entangled in the cable of the winch. NIOSH has tested newer and safer winch guards that may decrease limb injuries.

The shrimp industry is important to Louisiana’s economy, and shrimp season is here. Without the shrimpers, we would not be able to enjoy so many delicious meals. Sometimes, we take for granted how that catch wound up on our plates. Be aware and understand the some of these fishermen face daily job dangers.