After son's death, father criticizes lack of fishing industry oversight

Apr 23, 2013

The 66 Washingtonians who died on the job in 2012 were honored at a memorial on Tuesday. A memorial bell was rung 66 times, once for each victim who died of a job-related illness or injury.

But the father of a 22-year-old commercial fisherman who died says not enough has been done; he voiced frustration over what he called a lack of government oversight of the fishing industry.

Luke Jensen had always loved fishing. He started working as a deckhand for a small fishing charter in Ilwaco near the mouth of the Columbia River when he was only about 13 years old. He died last year on March 10 along with three other men aboard a fishing trawler.

His father, David Jensen, is an architect and city council member in Ilwaco. Jensen said following his son's death, he was outraged to learn about the lack of government protection for commercial fishermen.

"You have to have survival suits, you have to have a raft, and you have to have an EPIRB beacon—an emergency beacon. That’s it," he said. "And this boat was pulled down by a crab pot, if you can believe that. It was just dragged under the water so fast that nobody even opened the door to get out of the cabin."

Jensen said one of the boat’s outriggers apparently got caught on the crab pot and snapped off, destabilizing the boat and pulling it down into the water. The boat was probably overloaded and understaffed for its size, he said. The Coast Guard is investigating the incident.

Jensen said he is frustrated that the Coast Guard inspects large charter fishing boats for seaworthiness, but not commercial fishing vessels. He added he is also dismayed that there is no state oversight of commercial fishing safety.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Labor and Industries says overseeing the safety of commercial fishing is a federal responsibility.