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Boat Deaths Prompt Safety Changes

March 2, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ After four sinkings along the East Coast killed 11 clam fishermen in less than a month, a Coast Guard panel is expected to recommend mandatory inspections of fishing boats and licensing of skippers.

The panel’s recommendations, due March 19, are aimed at making the most dangerous occupation in America safer. Commercial fishing has 131 deaths per year per 100,000 employees, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

The Coast Guard panel, which includes representatives of the industry and the government, was created in January after the four sinkings between Dec. 28 and Jan. 18. Three accidents took place off New Jersey, and one off New Bedford, Mass.

Panel member Bob Higgins, a Coast Guard safety coordinator, said Tuesday that the panel is expected to recommend mandatory inspections of fishing boats and and licensing for skippers.

However, Congress has shot down licensing requirements three times because of concern the industry already is over-regulated. And the recommendations will probably meet with widespread opposition from the industry.

``The fishing fleet is in such a battle over fishing regulations, this will be one more thing they’ll put out and the guys will go berserk,″ said William Adler, a lobsterman and member of the Coast Guard’s commercial fishing enforcement working group.

``I know they’re trying to stomp out all possible ways people can get killed and that’s very important. But the sinkings are still going to take place.″

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