Sunday the 30-foot fishing vessel ELLA ANN sank at the mouth of Willapa Bay while fishing for dungeness crab. One of two crewmen aboard the vessel was lost in the accident. 34 year old Luis Perez was tragically lost in the accident. It is unknown at this time what caused the vessel to capsize and sink, but the matter will be investigated by the Coast Guard. The captain of the vessel, Eric Petit, narrowly escaped death when he was revived with CPR by a helicopter crew after he was rescued.
Crewmen working aboard small crab boats on the coast of Washington are Jones Act seamen protected by Federal Maritime law. However, there are few Federal safety regulations that protect the crewmen who do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. The dungeness crab fishery is recognized as a job with extremely high fatality rates. The small crab boats that work in the dungeness fishery are often exposed to severe weather and sea conditions. It is imperative that all safety equipment aboard these boats be kept regularly maintained and that crews be drilled in vessel safety. Accidents in the crab fleet are frequently caused by overloading the boat with crab pots, poor maintenance, and working in too heavy weather.