Professional fishing and the risk of accidents: the Dover Strait, an example of a high risk area


L’Atlas Bleu / Exploiting

Fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world, with a scarcely believable number of accidental deaths estimated at 24,000 each year (Petursdottir et al., 2004). It is therefore unsurprising that most incidents at sea involve fishing activities: around 60 percent of all sea accidents in France. Multiple factors are involved, often in combination, arising from the harshness of working conditions at sea that put stress on both workers and equipment: firstly human factors (errors, tiredness, etc.), then technical factors (state of vessels, fishing gear and equipment, etc.) and finally external factors (climate and weather conditions, sea state, snags, etc.). The high level of fishing accidents also highlights the competitive pressure that pushes fishers to take more risks, especially when fishing companies are having trouble making ends meet (political and economic context, stock levels, etc.)

The gradual shrinking of fishing areas (type 2), linked to vessels being restricted or even totally or partially prohibited from accessing certain areas, can lead to the transfer of fishing effort, in part at least, to other areas where risk is already high (type 1) and can increase the risk in the remaining areas that are theoretically open to fishing (type 3). For example, certain kinds of fishing (e.g. trawling) may be banned from offshore wind farms or MPAs in the future, thus leading to heavier fishing elsewhere. This knock-on effect, which has not yet been thoroughly researched, warrants more attention to reduce the risk of accidents and to develop strategic planning with regard to maritime spaces.

HERBERT V., 2013. L’émergence des collectivités territoriales riveraines dans la gouvernance du pas de Calais – Dover strait : une implication salutaire, VertigO hors-série 18, (

PETURSDOTTIR G., HANNIBALSSON O., TURNER J.M.M., 2004. La sécurité en mer, élément essentiel de la gestion des pêches. Rome, FAO, Circulaire sur les pêches n°966 (

Brice TROUILLET, Full Professor (Geography). Institut de Géographie et d’Aménagment Régional de l’Université de Nantes. LETG-Nantes UMR 6554 Cnrs

Brice TROUILLET, « Professional fishing and the risk of accidents: the Dover Strait, an example of a high risk area», L’atlas Bleu, Revue cartographique des mers et des littoraux. Published online on 10 January 2020.


DOI : 10.35109/atlasbleu-eng.10005