Filling the gaps in fisher health

11 May 2017

An Australian-first survey hopes to provide the clearest picture yet of the health of workers in our commercial fishing industry.

Recent research and widespread anecdotal reports indicate there is reason to be concerned about the mental health of those in the commercial fishing sector.

However, while issues such as chronic job insecurity and government policy on fishing licences are known to be having an impact on the health of fishers, there is little hard data available.

The first nation-wide survey of the health of Australian fishers hopes to change that, with Deakin University researchers keen to fill important knowledge gaps about the vital $2.8 billion industry.

The survey is part of a project funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation in partnership with Deakin and the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH). 

It aims to develop an evidence-based health and safety training program for Australian fishing families, adapted from the NCFH’s successful Sustainable Farming Families program.

Project leader and Deakin Senior Lecturer in Anthropology Dr Tanya King said the survey’s results would be used to inform health literacy tools for Australian fishing communities.

“It will also be useful for industry associations who want to help their members, and to help policy and decision makers understand how management decisions are impacting on those in the commercial fishing industry.”

Dr King said much was known about the health of other primary producer sectors in Australia, such as farmers, but the same could not be said for the commercial fishing industry.

“For example, it’s difficult to even provide an accurate estimate of the number of people in the industry.

“A lot of the data around professional fisheries, and even recreational fishers, is included in broader categories which include farmers and other food producers in the agricultural sector.”

A current board member of Seafood Industry Victoria, Dr King said a lot of focus was given to the health of Australia’s fisheries - which were in good shape - but the value of the people in the industry tended to be overlooked.

“Internationally, fishers are very well regarded and valued members of society. In Australia that’s certainly not the case,” she said.

“One of the things we’d like to do with this survey is raise the profile of those in the industry and the importance of their work.

“It’s vital that we not only understand the concerns of commercial fishers, but also develop some resources that can help support fishing families and communities when times are tough.

“Without healthy, happy and resilient professional fishers, we can’t have a healthy and economically viable industry.”

The survey is open to all Australians with a commercial interest in the seafood harvesting industry, including licence holders and business partners.

Deckhands, and women who are the business partners of active fishermen, are particularly encouraged to take part.

The survey, which takes approximately 20 minutes to complete, can be requested via email or completed online.

The survey closes on 30 June.

By Deakin Research

For all media enquiries please contact Deakin’s media team.

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Dr Tanya King is leading an Australia-first study into the health of workers in the commercial fishing industry.

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Dr Tanya King is leading an Australia-first study into the health of workers in the commercial fishing industry.

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