More than 100,000 Lives are Lost Annually in Global Fishing

“Triggering Death - Quantifying The True Human Cost of Global Fishing” - November 2022

"More Than 100,000 People Die Annually Across Global Fishing Sector, New Research Shows”

“The human cost of fishing is higher than you think”

Marine Policy Paper - Volume 148 - March 2023

The human cost of global fishing

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Fishers in Northern Africa - FISH Safety Foundaton

"Illegal fishing, climate change, weak governance, poverty and reduced fish stocks contribute to high death rates in one of world’s most dangerous professions"

Each fishing community faces its own unique challenges based on the individual and synergistic impacts of these drivers on their sector.

Case Studies from around the globe

West Africa
Deaths among fishers in West Africa are high, in part because of poor government oversight, conflict with industrial vessels and because many boats must travel further from shore than in the past to find enough fish.
Sundarbans Mangrove Forest
Driven by poverty, thousands of fishers work within the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest, despite ever increasing levels of attacks from both animals and other people. Illegal fishing, bonded labour, and corruption are widespread within the area.
Central America
Lobster fishing is a big business. It dominates the fishing industry in Honduras, which exports more than 1,000,000 kg of lobster to the United States each year. Honduras is also one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with more than 60% of the population living in poverty. Given the importance of lobster to the economy, and the poverty of many workers and families, fishers are vulnerable to exploitation.
Exploitation of foreign workers is a prominent problem in European fishing sectors, where fishers especially migrant workers may be paid below the legal minimum and work in abusive conditions.
Pacific Islands
In recent years, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, and Fiji have all had crews killed, arrested, or reported missing over illegal activities, such as poaching or encroachment on another country’s territorial waters. As these vessels go farther afield, the nature of their activity means that associated deaths are often unreported or unattributed.
In the Indian Ocean off Madagascar, illegal fishing may make up as much as half of that country’s total catch due to IUU activity by both the artisanal and industrial sectors. Only one in five artisanal fishing canoes are registered with government authorities, leading to vast amounts of unreported activities in this fleet.
Key Contacts
Sam Willis
Research Lead
Eric Holliday
Chief Executive

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Triggering Death: Quantifying the true human cost of global fishing

Every year, the global fishing sector witnesses a tragic loss of more than 100,000 lives. This staggering number serves as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by those who brave the open seas in pursuit of their livelihoods.

"Triggering Death - Quantifying The True Human Cost of Global Fishing" by the FISH Safety Foundation is a thought-provoking and eye-opening report that delves into the overlooked human toll of the global fishing industry. 

Drawing on extensive data and firsthand accounts, the author not only quantifies the human toll but also explores potential solutions and calls for greater transparency within the fishing industry.

November 2022 marks the release of this groundbreaking report, which is sure to ignite conversations and inspire change. "Triggering Death" is a wake-up call, reminding us that every fisherman's story deserves to be heard, and that by understanding and addressing the true human cost of global fishing, we can work towards a more sustainable and humane future for all involved.

Suggested citation

Willis, S. & Holliday, E. (2022) Triggering Death: Quantifying the True Human Cost of Global Fishing [online] FISH Safety Foundation.

Executive summary

This report highlights the recent research by the FISH Safety Foundation which aimed to confirm or update the 1999 estimate of 24,000 fisher fatalities per year, and if possible, identify any contributing drivers to these fatalities.

Analysing thousands of pieces of information from all available sources revealed that the formal information on fatalities currently available is often inconsistent or missing, with existing recording systems seriously fragmented. There are currently no statutory requirements to report accidents and fatalities in most countries, with little or no recording or formal investigations of these events taking place. We shed light on why it was so difficult to estimate the number of fisher fatalities globally and propose what should to be done to improve the situation.

The presented research clearly shows that the annual global fisher fatality numbers are well in excess of 100,000 per year – considerably higher than any previous estimates. Ongoing work is needed to understand the drivers behind these unacceptably high fatality figures and address the data gaps to allow for the development of targeted effective safety initiatives to make the critical work of fishing possible without such a dramatic loss of life.

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