More than 100,000 fishing-related deaths could be occurring each year around the world, according to new research from the FISH Safety Foundation (FSF) commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
By reviewing publicly available data and by cross-referencing it with investigative journalism and news articles, social media, and private communications with government officials and others, the study's authors say they were able to update previous estimates of fishing industry deaths.
The number is an attempt to update a 1999 statistic of 24,000 fishermen fatalities per year originally produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The researches admit, however, that the estimate includes a significant level of uncertainty because of a lack of standardized tracking of fishing deaths, and should not be considered precise.
"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," according to the foundation.
"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."
The FISH Safety Foundation identified several factors responsible for fishermen mortality that included poverty, geopolitical conflict, overfishing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and climate change.
The largest number of fatalities have occurred in Africa and Asia, according to the report, where artisanal fisheries accounted for a significant number of deaths.
The research foundation recommends countries ratify existing regulatory frameworks available that are designed to stop illegal fishing and protect fishermen.
Those include the Cape Town Agreement, the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures and the continued implementation of the 2007 ILO Work in Fishing Convention C188, which sets standards for living conditions onboard vessels at sea.