Fishing Research and Outreach
The Northeast Winch Safety Project seeks to understand the safety features and practice of the Northeast trawl fishing fleet. The Northeast fisheries region is the most dangerous occupational operation in the country, and winches are responsible for 16% of on-board fatal injuries. Our focus is to find ways to minimize drum winch entrapment fatalities through a “prevention through design” concept. This concept includes winch safety equipment, emergency shut off switches, and/or other approaches to keep fishermen away from winches when they are operating. The project is designed to integrate fishermen in the research process, and the fishermen themselves will help determine the best designs and safety approaches for their workplaces.
Ms. Backus works as a Co-Investigator with the Fishing Partnership (MA) and Principle Investigator Madeleine Hall-Arber on a project entitled “RESCUE—Responding to Emergencies at Sea and to Communities Under Extreme Stress.” The goal of this project is to “provide communities and agencies in Massachusetts with a well-documented guide and training tool that will improve safety, preparedness, and crisis management in the wake of fishing fatalities and vessels lost at sea through the integration of community resources.” The product of this research will be an on-line and hard copy manual for fishing communities.
Maine Diesel Emissions Study
In 2009 after the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) and the Maine Marine Trades Association received federal stimulus funds from Region I EPA to support a repowering program (Clean Marine Engine Program or CMEP) within the lobster fleet in Maine, the MDEP asked Ann Backus of the Harvard ERC Outreach Program if there were a study that could be designed around this repowering program. Ann Backus collaborated with Lynn Cating to create a pre-post-empowerment study to measure changes in diesel emissions as a result of replacing dirty diesel engines with EPA Tier II compliant engines; the project was subsequently awarded ERC Pilot Project funds to implement the study.
Occupational Safety and Compliance in the Maine Commercial Fishing Industry: Status Report and Policy Recommendations
This report presents the results of the Maine Sea Grant funded study ‘Safety and Compliance in the Maine Commercial Fishing Industry’. During a two year period, data were collected on safety equipment and training, captain sociodemographic characteristics, and fishermen risk preferences from a representative sample of inshore fishermen along the coast of the state of Maine. This report explores trends in safety and regulatory compliance and links this information to sociodemographic and risk preferences of the sampled commercial fishing vessel captains.
More than 40% of vessels were found to be non-compliant with applicable vessel-specific safety regulations, and that rate was higher among vessels subjected by federal law to more stringent and costly safety requirements. The vast majority of fishermen were not safety trained, and many were not familiar with the proper use and maintenance of life-saving equipment. Fishermen had a tendency to minimize the risks, and for this reason would be unlikely to participate in non-mandated safety training. It is clear that more stringent safety regulations will require a strong education and enforcement effort on the part of regulators to ensure that fishermen comply with the new stronger regulations that were passed at the federal level in October 2010.