May 30, 2017 | Updated: 06:19 AM EDT

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The Risk Of Fishing Takes Over Fishermen, Race To Fish Slows Down

Apr 10, 2017 06:51 AM EDT

Fishing vessels moored in Brixham harbour on March 3, 2016 in Devon, England.
(Photo : Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Commercial fishing is a career path taken with risk. It is also one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. where most of the time, the danger comes from how fish are harvested.

About a third of U.S. fisheries operate under the derby-style fishing. It is a season that opens for a few weeks or months and fishermen race to catch many fished before it is closed again. But some rules for catching a fish can vary by region and species.

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Derby-style fishing means commercial fishermen are forced to go into the water even in bad weather or before their boats to be properly maintained. Many accidents have been reported to happen because of this type of fishing method.

According to Bishoplegal, the fatality rate for commercial fishing is 128/100,000 workers per year. This is more than 26 times work-related death rate among all kinds of occupations. The most tragic cases involving death are because of dislocated limbs, deep laceration and/or scarring, spinal cord injuries, head injuries, and broken bones are serious injuries too commonly seen from this fishing occupation.

But over the last decade, a different kind of fishing management program known as "catch share" has been gaining attention to the public. It is to give the fishermen a portion of the catch in advance thinking that it would keep them from racing each other to the sea especially in risky weather. A new study that has been published online in the journal Nature proves that this kind of program works well for the fishermen.

"This is the first time we see broad systematic evidence that catch shares are slowing the race to fish," professor Martin Smith of the environmental economics at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and a co-author of the study said. They looked at monthly data from 39 federally managed commercial fisheries which worth a combined $402 million such as Pacific halibut, Atlantic cod, New England haddock, Gulf of Mexico red snapper and more, which operate under the "catch share" fishing programs.

In the article published by the NPR, the researchers compared the data from a similar control fishery that did not operate under a "catch share" fishing program. They found that under this program, harvesters took an extra month to fish.

"When you think about it, a month [longer] means fishermen made decisions about not fishing in severe weather and took their trips when it was safer. That probably meant it saved lives and reduced injuries," as per Andrew Rosenberg, a former deputy director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, after writing a commentary on the findings also appearing in Nature.

Consumers benefit from it too. By slow fishing, some of the seafood that people like best can be found fresh more often at seafood counters.