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PFDs That Work

AMSEA instructor, Beverly Noll, called this morning with the sad news that a fisherman was lost overboard off the coast of Northern California, eight miles west of the South Spit in Humboldt Bay. Apparently, the missing man and another deckhand were setting crab gear on the F/V Chief Joseph when they were swept overboard by a breaking wave. The captain was able to retrieve one of his crew, but never found the missing man. Our hearts go out to the young man's family and friends.

As a result of this tragic accident, Bev tells us she's getting questions about personal flotation devices (PFDs) that work for commercial fishermen. She asked us to chime in.

We get asked frequently, "what is the best PFD?" We always answer, "the one you will wear." Fortunately, there are a wide variety of styles to meet the needs of different fishermen. The gallery of photos above have brief descriptions of a number of different types of PFDs that many fishermen find wearable. You can click on the photo to read the description. Please keep in mind that AMSEA does not endorse any particular brand or type of PFD. These are examples of gear that we bring to classes to show fishermen the types of gear available.

After looking at the photos, you might wonder why we are showing non-approved PFDs. It gets back to the idea that the best PFD is the one you will wear. Non-approved PFDs won't help you meet your boat's carriage requirements. But, in a man overboard situation, a non-approved PFD that you are wearing is much better than a Coast Guard-approved PFD that's stowed in a locker.

For a more in-depth discussion of PFDs that work for commercial fishermen, click the links below to read the results from a study made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). They asked 200 fishermen from different fisheries to try a variety of PFDs and report back. Here are the links to the their results:

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