Observer Casualties, Injuries, and Near Misses
Fisheries Observation work involves certain inherent risks. This project, initiated by Brad Justin in the Fall 2007, focuses on building awareness of these risks and dangerous situations. By cataloging actual case examples of Observer casualties, injuries, and near misses, we hope to provide an important resource of "lessons learned" for stakeholders to reference when fully comprehending the potential dangers of the profession.
The tragedies outlined here are painful lessons that remind us that despite great improvements in safety since the 1990's (heightened safety training and safety equipment provided to observers), the fisheries observer job is still quite dangerous. Luckily, we can reduce these risks by raising awareness of past incidents. The aim of this on-going project is not only to categorize all observer casualties, injuries, and near misses (all that are made available to the public) but to also promote, through advocacy and education, certain desirable practices meant to ensure observers' safety and to provide a foundation for new and emerging observer programs and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMO) to help with improving safety conditions for their observers.
[Last Updated: 16th. March 2012] Note: The following list is really just a start and
should by no means be considered representative but should
rather be considered an on-going Catalogue of Observer
Casualties, Injuries, and Near Misses.
Catalogue of Observer Casualties, Injuries, and Near Misses
Chris Langel - March 10, 2012, the F/V Lady Cecelia went missing off the Washington Coast the vessel encountered bad weather with 12 foot seas and 75 kn winds, other three crew members still missing.
Jay Alderman - September 19, 2007; F/V Westward I; North Pacific
Fell in the water and drowned while attempting to re-board his vessel.
Jay Howell (observer trainee) - January 1st, 1997; North Pacific
Died of exposure in Anchorage, AK. Body found April, 1998 in Cook Inlet.
Chris Scanlon - July 1991; North Pacific
Hit by a drunk driver while bicycling back from hiking in Kodiak, AK.
Robert W. McCord - March 22nd, 1990: F/V Aleutian Enterprise; North Pacific
Vessel sank. 22 survivors. 9 deaths, including observer.
Off the Job Deaths (USA)
Mischa Newman - June 2003; North Pacific
Crushed by the all-terrain vehicle she was riding while researching black-footed ferrets in Montana.
On the Job Injuries (USA)
NOAA Observer - February 18th, 2010; F/V Pacific Star; Hand Injuries when a line parted aboard, was treated by personnel of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley.
Off the Job Injuries (USA)
Brian Petrie - January 9, 2007; North Pacific
Struck by a bus in Chile which ran a red light while he was in a crosswalk. Brian has undergone extensive physiotherapy for neck and back injuries.
Near Misses (USA)
Michele Klodzinski - February 26th, 2008: F/T Pacific Glacier; North PacificFire. All had to abandon ship. All of the crew and the observer survived.
Jason Vallee and
Gwen Rains - March 23rd, 2008; F/T Alaska
Ranger; North Pacific
Vessel sank. Five of the crew died, and the rest of the crew and the two on-board observers survived.
Meghan Miner - Sep. 28th, 2007: F/V Jacob Allen; Northeast
Vessel sank. All of crew including observer survived.
Brook Doughtie - 2005: F/V Eva Joy; Northeast, Fire. Vessel sank. All of crew including observer survived.
Elizabeth Mitchell - 80's, Survived during a failure in an at sea transfer between fishing boats, a crew member suffered hypothermia.
Robin Harrison - February 14th, 1984; F/V Anyo Maru No.15, Bering Sea, the Japanese fishing boat rammed into the Kyowa Maru No.11 during a storm in Bering Sea, fourteen crew in the Kyowa Maru No.11 died, the observer survived.
Deaths and Near Misses (outside the USA)
CCAMLR Observer/s - January 11th, 2012 - The F/V Jung Woo caught fire in Ross Sea (Antarctica), three crew member died, 37 men were rescued.
Ukranian CCAMLR Observer - December 16th, 2011 - Onboard the Russian F/V Sparta stranded in the ice in Ross Sea (Antarctica) for 11 days, the ship hit underwater ice on the the December 16th 2011 and produced an one foot hole in the hole, the observer and the rest of the crew (31 members) were rescued unharmed.
Korean CCAMLR Observer - December 13th 2010 - Died in the Antarctica when the F/V Insung No.1 capsized, other 21 crew members lost their lives, a second Scientific Observer from Russia (the International Observer) was rescued by the F/V Hongjin 707 and survived, the issue was investigated by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission of New Zealand, still under investigation (updated on 29th Feb 2012)
Charlie Lasisi - March 29th, 2010; F/V Dolores 838, Bismarck Sea. Charlie was an observer with the National Fisheries Authority of Papua New Guinea he was allegedly murdered by six Filipino crew, the body was never recovered, the 6 Filipino crew are now free men with the charges against them been dismissed.
Eumer Villarroel - January 16th, 2010; F/B Calypso (Venezuela flag); Venezuelan Observer survived to the sinking of the boat with fourteen crew members, the ship sank 40 NM off Cartagena (Colombia) in his way from Venezuela to Panama, 15 persons were rescued and 3 still missing.
Tania Fernandez Vivancos - February 22nd. 2009; F/V Monte Galineiro (spanish flag); North Atlantic 235 NM off the coast of Terranova, CA, all the 22 crew including the observer survived the sinking of the ship, she was hired by TRAGSA and deployed as NAFO Observer.
Jose Luis Diaz - November 28th., 2008; F/V Puerto Williams, IFOP Observer (Chile Fishery Agency) Poisoned onboard after drinking methyl alcohol, he was attended in a hospital in Punta Arenas (Chile) together with other two crew members, shortly after he died.
Argentina Observer - January 27th, 2007; F/V Puente America, 110 NM off Puerto Deseado (Argentina), caught fire and all the persons onboard abandoned the ship, the crew (45 plus the observer) were rescued safe.
Two Unknown Fishery Observer - November 5th., 2006; F/V Holberg, The Uruguayan boat ran aground in Port Purvis, West Falkland Island, the 31 crew and the observers managed to abandon the ship.
Phillip McDonald - September 12th., 2005; F/V Melina and Keith II, Newfoundland, CA. The DFO Observer, and three more crew of a total of eight persons onboard survived.
Canada Observer - July 25th., 2005; F/V Ocean Tor (Canada); West of Cape Flattery, Washington, USA. The ship sank only the Observer and the Master of a total of 4 people onboard survived, both of them were transported to Ucluelet and treated for hypothermia.
Michael Slusar - February 26th., 2004; F/V Hope Bay; British Columbia, CA.Observer was the only survivor of a total of four onboard.
Eugenio Olivares - May 1st., 2003; F/V Lyn (Falkland flag); Southern Ocean, ran aground on the entrance of Moraine Fjord, South Georgia Island (near Antarctica.) Crew and MRAG observer survived.Marcus Shuttleworth - May 1st., 2003; F/V Moresko 1 (Korean flag), ran aground in Cumberland Bay. Entire crew and MRAG observer survived, uninjured.
Tahmores Moslempour - 30th April 2003, F/V Viking Bay (Spanish flag), ran aground in Genny Beach near King Edward Point, South Georgia, the ship was able to get herself off the beach, the MRAG observer was dropped off and the boat proceeded to Stanley for hull inspection.
Argentina Observer - November 1st, 2001, F/V Conarpesca 1, off Cabo dos Bahias (Argentina), capsized in 15 minutes after a collision with the F/V Mar Esmeralda, the observer and the rest of the crew survived.
IFOP Observer - September 7th, 2000; F/V Don Gregorio (Chile); Sank 72 NM off Talcahuano (Chile), the observer and other 17 crew members were rescued alive.
DFO Observer - December 2nd., 1997; F/V Pacific Charmer, Off Vancouver, BC, the fishing vessel sank, two crew of five persons onboard died, the DFO Observer was recovered unconscious when rescued from the sea and revived by prompt medical attention from a hovercraft of the Coast Guard.
Angolan Observers - (unknow date); (unknow vessels); Two Angolan Observers disappeared whilst on duties onboard.
Judith Reeves - Oct. 28th 1991; L/L Eishin Maru; Northeast,
She and her crew survived the infamous "Perfect Storm"
Estelle Laberge - Dec 16-17, 1990; F/V Nadine; Quebec, CA
7 deaths, including observer. 2 survivors.
Alasdair Fowler - circa 1987; Newfoundland, CA
Died when the small plane he was flying home from Greenland crashed. No survivors.
Wendell Cullet - December, 1983; Newfoundland, CA
Drowned while making an at sea transfer and the dory he was in capsized.
Cyril Forward - (various dates); (Various vessels); Newfoundland, CA
Survived 3 sinkings. He is still an active observer.
Things to Consider regarding this Catalogue:
- What circumstances increase the risk of observer deaths and injuries?
- What can be done -- both before and during -- emergencies to reduce these risks?
Most of the incidents listed occurred in either the USA or Canada. We know that other nation's programs may be suffering higher casualties and incidents. Only by sharing information with one another can we learn from our mistakes and work together to be safer.
We know that this list is very incomplete. Please help us to piece other incidents together. If anyone has any information which may lead us to other observer casualties, injuries, and near-misses from anywhere around the world, please contact Ebol Rojas at firstname.lastname@example.org or the APO at apo@apo- observers.org.
Contact InformationPlease do not hesitate to contact us with your questions or feedback, and if you have any interest in participating in the developments of this project.
Ebol Rojas: email@example.com
Keith Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Wormington: email@example.com
- Hansford, D., Cornish, V. 2001. Fisheries Observer Insurance, Liability, and Labor Workshop. NOAA Tech. Memo. Prepared by MRAG Americas, Inc. 112p.
- Cox, David C. 2003. Plan to manage risks and minimize liabilities associated with the deployment of contracted fisheries observers. Final Report by QuanTech. Inc. on NOAA Contract No. 50-DGNF-1-90089
- International Fishing Industry Safety and Health Conference. Safety Training for Fishermen. October 23-25, 2000, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
- Letter to
Bill Hogarth - March 10, 2004 regarding 11/13/03 Memo on
application of the FLSA to observers - his response to the APO
Word Document: http://apo- observers.org/letter/hogarth_3-10-04_final.doc
- Draft Fisheries Observer Compensation Act (FOCA)
language and Whitepaper providing background information:
Draft FOCA: http://apo
Draft Whitepaper: http://apo- observers.org/letter/Whitepaper_Aug17_02.pdf
APO FOCA Comments: http://apo- observers.org/letter/FOCA_APO_9-4-02.pdf
APO Whitepaper Comments: http://apo- observers.org/letter/Whitepaper_APOcomments_9-15- 02.pdf
- Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA), US Observer Insurance
- Justin, Brad. Observer Casualties, Injuries, and Near Misses. In: Mail Buoy. Fall 2007. [Vol. 10 (3)]
- Evaluation of NMFS Observer Safety Training (USA)
- Troop, Dan. F/V Alaska Ranger Catastrophe and USCG Safety Compliance (ACSA. In: Mail Buoy. Summer 2008. [Vol. 11 (2)]
- Billings, Alicia. Safety Tips - Lessons Learned from the North Pacific. In: Mail Buoy. Summer 2008. [Vol. 11 (2)]