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The modern cowboy

January 16, 2014

In response to the lucky rescue of John Aldridge, Mario Vittone wonders if commercial fishermen suffer a psychological disease:

I’m beginning to think there is a disease that is caught early in a working fisherman’s life; it’s as if there is something in the scales of fish that wants to pay them back, something that gets under their skin. Once in their blood it affects the brain and makes them more likely to die than any other group of professional mariners. It makes them believe that they are different; that fishing is more dangerous than every other job out there, and nothing can be done about it.

He then proceeds to outline all the safety procedures where Aldridge went wrong.

He’s right. And he won’t make a difference. The problem is that commercial fishing has all the wrong characteristics for promulgating safety procedures. There is no institutional organization that identifies procedures, enforces them, looks for infractions, or requires their practice. It is a boom and bust business, which encourages excess and risky efforts during the booms, and neglect during the busts. Men (and the rare gal) enter that trade often because they don’t work well in the more typical business settings. Sometimes because they have crossed a variety of social boundaries. Many resent any discipline that is not theirs to choose. No one is going to tell them how long they can stay up working without sleep, or when to wear a lifejacket. Which means they will keep dying more than necessary, and mariners in more professional lines will keep pointing out their safety lapses.

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