Fish Radio
Health study for fishermen at Copper River
May 8, 2015

This is Fish Radio. I’m Laine Welch – What health issues are unique to fishermen?  A new study aims to find out – More after this….

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How much are fishermen affected by long term health problems like hearing loss, lack of sleep and high blood pressure?  A pilot study aims to find out and researchers are using the 500-plus members of  the Copper River drift fleet as test subjects.

The genesis stemmed from wanting to take a proactive look at what are the contributing health factors and health issues that are in commercial fishing. 

Torie Baker is a Sea Grant Marine Advisory Agent in Cordova.  She is partnering on the study with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and  the School of Public Health at the University of Washington.

And the things they are interested it are hearing loss, sleep and fatigue management is a really big one, presence or absence of hypertension, the amount of exercise that can be documented during the offseason versus what you’re doing during the fishing season. 

A first survey of the fleet wrapped up May 1; another will be given in mid-July.

They’re trying to compare what are the off season health habits and behaviors  versus what essentially might be sacrificed or stressed during the season.  So it’s set up as a pre- and mid-season effort. 

In July, fishermen also will take a basic health exam of vital signs and fitness. Volunteers also are wearing Fitbit watches that can track steps and activity, and most importantly monitor sleep behavior over 3 days.

 The big body of literature on fatigue and sleep management in the marine world is largely informed by tests and research done in the military and so there a rea lot of folks in high risk occupations, such as airline pilots or truckers  and ship captains where fatige is a big driving force in productivity and safety management.

Baker calls the study an “intriguing first attempt” at helping an industry that from a health perspective, hasn’t had much attention.  The ultimate goal is to learn ways to reduce risks and keep fishermen healthy.

Fish Radio is also brought to you by Ocean Beauty Seafoods, celebrating 105 years of partnership with Alaska’s coastal communities.  In Kodiak, I’m Laine Welch.