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Commercial Fishing and Shipping in Petersburg, Alaska

Petersburg, Alaska is a fishing community located on the north end of Mitkof Island in Southeast Alaska. The town was founded more than 100 years ago in the late 1890s by Norwegian pioneer Peter Buschmann. Buschmann recognized that the ice from LeConte Glacier could be used to pack fish and decided to open the Icy Strait Packing Company cannery, along with a sawmill and a dock. In 1916, Alaska’s first shrimp processor, Alaskan Glacier Seafoods, was founded in Petersburg by Earl Ohmer. Petersburg grew to a population of 600 by the year 1920.

Since its founding, the commercial fishing industry has been Petersburg’s dominant economic driver. Today, it is the town’s largest employer. All species of Alaska salmon are caught off its waters, along with crab, halibut and other species. Petersburg Fisheries, a division of Icicle Seafoods, Inc. is the oldest operating seafood plant in Alaska and has operated continuously since 1899. Trident Seafoods Corporation also has a plant in Petersburg.

Though commercial fishing can provide significant financial rewards, it is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Workers face long hours, icy waters, and strong winds. Seamen who are injured do have a right to legal compensation; they are protected under the Jones Act and general maritime laws.

Under general maritime law, an injured seaman is entitled to a basic living stipend and medical treatment if they were injured while working aboard their ship. These benefits are called “maintenance and cure.” Maintenance is a daily living stipend to be paid until the injured worker reaches his maximum level of medical improvement or returns to work. There is no set rate for maintenance. Maintenance set in an employment contract will be non-binding unless it is part of a union-bargained collective bargaining agreement.

Cure is all the medical expenses associated with the seaman’s injury. These expenses include doctor’s bills, hospital bills, physical therapy expenses, diagnostic testing, wheelchairs, and other reasonable medical expenses. If a seaman had a preexisting injury that was aggravated while he was aboard the vessel, the seaman may still be eligible for cure benefits.

Under the Jones Act, an employer owes its employees a reasonably safe place to work. If an employer’s negligence contributed to a seaman’s injury, the seaman has a right to recover under the Jones Act. Even if the employer’s role in the injury was marginal, they might be held liable. An employer is also responsible for the negligence of other crew members, officers, operators, captains, or anyone else employed on the vessel. Even injuries that occur off the vessel may be covered under the Jones Act depending on what the seaman was doing at the time of the injury.

If you or a family member was injured in a commercial fishing accident, it is important that you find a lawyer with the specific knowledge necessary to help you navigate your case. The attorneys at Kraft Davies are experienced in representing injured Alaskan seamen against vessel owners, maritime employers, and maritime insurance companies. Contact the attorneys at Kraft Davies today at 206.624.8844 through this website.