Anna Mounsey

Project title: Injury Risk Reduction Opportunities During Tender Offload: A Case Study of Drift Gillnet Salmon Fishers in Bristol Bay, Alaska

Degree: MS (Thesis) | Program: Environmental Health (EH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2022 | Faculty advisor: Tania M Busch Isaksen


The Bristol Bay, Alaska drift gillnet fishery is unique due to its intensity and short time frame. Spanning just eight weeks, gillnet fishers participate in the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. The days are long and the conditions extremely variable, but fishers return season after season. As an industry, commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations. The Bristol Bay drift gillnet fishery is no exception. Between 2000-2007, 17 deaths occurred in Alaska salmon drift gillnet fisheries (United Fishermen of Alaska, 2008). There is no data on whether these fishers were wearing personal flotation devices. This study was conducted to investigate perception of risk and experiences of Bristol Bay, Alaska drift gillnet fishers while delivering their catch at a tender vessel. Additionally, we investigated the acceptability and potential for the implementation of the hierarchy of hazard controls including engineering, administrative and personal protective equipment (PPE). The study entailed a pre and post season survey of Bristol Bay drift gillnet fishers, open May through August 2021, both online and in person in Naknek, Alaska. The participants were asked to complete the survey electronically. A total of 138 fishers, including 56 vessel captains and 82 deckhands, completed the survey. Most fishers agreed that the lack of sleep affects their awareness and critical thinking. Both captains and deckhands agreed that a personal flotation device (PFD) would help them survive a fall overboard most of the time. Both captains and deckhands also responded that they have never considered wearing a hardhat while delivering. The most favored controls for reducing risk at the tender was the utilization of non-skid on walking surfaces, pre-tied loops in tie-up lines, pre-season training and PFD use. We recommend that additional efforts be made to encourage pre-season training about delivery safety for fishers, boat improvements such as non-skid paint on the deck and PFD use while at the tender.