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Commercial Fishing and Shipping Injuries in the Bering Sea

The Bering Sea, which is bordered on the east by the Alaskan Coast, covers more than two million square miles and supports year-round commercial fishing opportunities. It is one of the United States largest and profitable fisheries. Nearly two tons of fish are harvested each year from the Bering Sea. This amount is over half of the United States’ total harvest. Some of the fisheries include golden king crab, Tanner crab, weathervane scallops, Dungeness crab, Pacific cod, sablefish, Pacific salmon and Pacific herring. Major fish processing plants in the Bering Sea region are located in Dutch Harbor, Saint Paul, and Akutan, Alaska.

In addition to commercial fishing, as global warming has diminished sea ice, commercial shipping has increased in the Bering Sea. In 2018, a two-way commercial shipping route through the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia’s Chukchi Peninsula was approved by the International Maritime Organization, an arm of the United Nations.

Commercial fishing and shipping are very dangerous industries to work in, especially in the Bering Sea where seamen face extreme weather conditions and icy waters. If you are injured while working at sea, it is important that you understand your rights under the law. There are three main avenues of recovery for injured seamen: 1) maintenance and cure, 2) the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and 3) the Jones Act.

Under maintenance and cure, seamen injured while in the service of a vessel are entitled to a daily living stipend and compensation for reasonable and necessary medical expenses. The employer is required to pay these benefits until the injured seaman has reached maximum medical cure no matter who or what caused the injury. If an employer fails to pay maintenance and cure benefits, a seaman may be entitled to legal fees and punitive damages.

Under the unseaworthiness doctrine, a vessel owner has a duty to keep and maintain the ship, the equipment, and the crew in seaworthy condition. This duty requires a vessel owner to maintain a ship that is fit for its intended use. The vessel owner is liable for any injuries caused by the unseaworthy condition, even if they were not aware that it existed.

The Jones Act allows seamen injured in the course of their employment to pursue a cause of action against their employer for negligence. An employer must provide a reasonably safe place to work for its employees. A seaman can recover under the Jones Act if the employers negligence played even the smallest part in the injury. A Jones Act claim may overlap with an unseaworthiness claim, but a seaman is not entitled to double recovery if an injury is caused both by Jones Act negligence and an unseaworthy condition.

If you or a loved one have been injured while working on a vessel in the Bering Sea, you should immediately reach out to an attorney. Maritime law is complex, and you deserve an experienced maritime attorney by your side who will ensure the best outcome possible. The attorneys at Kraft Davies have been successfully helping injured maritime workers for many years. Contact us today at 206.624.8844 or through this website for a free consultation.