20100819 boat 23
Crewman Joe Hinton works the stack on the fishing vessel "Reliance" during a storm in the Bering Sea, which took down four boats in four days during the opilio crab fishery in February 1994. Only one crewman lost his life, which was considered very fortunate. The Bering Sea is known for having the worst storms in the world. Crab fishing in the Bering Sea is considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. - 


STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The Bureau of Labor Statistics comes out with statistics today on workplace fatality rates for 2009. If it's anything like years past, commercial fishing will be among the most dangerous professions. There may be a few ways to protect fishermen from danger, but some say the measures soak profits.

Reporter Janet Babin has more.

JANET BABIN: One thing that makes this line of work so dicey is the frenzy surrounding the catch. In many fisheries, the minute the season opens, boats race to reel in as many fish as they can.

Photographer Karen Duceycrabbed under this system in Alaska's Bering Sea.

KAREN DUCEY: You would work around the clock, and you would work like 100 miles an hour -- I think we'd get about four hours of sleep a night. That's where the danger element would come in because you're exhausted.

Alaska's fisheries have since switched to what's called a "Catch Share Quota system."

Kate Bonzon with the Environmental Defense Fund wants all U.S. fisheries to use this type of quota system.

KATE BONZON: Catch shares provide fisherman with a secure access to a certain amount of fish, and it allows them to be a lot more flexible about when they go fish.

Bonzon says catch shares reduce fatalities, and stabilize fish stocks. Some fishermen complain the system nibbles away at their profits and curbs the adventure associated with the profession.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.