Although commercial fishing has become established as the most hazardous occupation in Western countries, relatively little has been reported on mortality from disease among fishermen.
To investigate the causes of work-related mortality from disease in the UK fishing industry from 1948 to 2005, trends in mortality over time and how it varies according to the sector of the fishing industry, to investigate non-work related mortality among fishermen ashore, and to compare it with that in other populations.
Examination of paper death inquiry files, death registers and death returns, as well as GIS mapping for a defined population of 1.45 million fishermen-years at risk.
From 1948 to 2005, there were a total of 449 work-related deaths from disease identified in the UK fishing industry, with a corresponding mortality rate of 30.9 per 100 000. The mortality rate increased from about 35 per 100 000 in the late 1940s to 60 in the early/mid 1970s but fell sharply to about 10 by the late 1970s. Most of the deaths were caused by ischaemic heart disease followed by other circulatory diseases, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases. The highest mortality rates were identified for fishermen employed on board distant water trawlers, particularly those operating in Arctic waters.
The study shows that fishermen in distant water trawlers, particularly in Arctic conditions, have the highest risks of mortality from disease. The high risks presumably reflect lifestyle risk factors as well as extremely hazardous and stressful working and sleeping conditions.
Fishermen, UK fishing industry, mortality from disease, ischaemic heart disease, distant water trawlers
School of Medicine
Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP
Correspondence to : Dr Stephen E.Roberts, E-mail: Stephen.E.Roberts@swansea.ac.uk