Finding time to sleep can be one of the biggest challenges during a busy fishing trip, especially during limited openers. The pressure to bait and pull pots or lines and handle nets can be unrelenting.

“The less you sleep, the more money you make in some sense. That’s a really hard thing to overcome. Because everybody wants to make more money.”   

Jerry Dzugan is director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association based in Sitka.

He told KDLL in Kenai that studies show that sleep deprivation leads to more accidents and worsens physical performance.

 “The military alone has done volumes and volumes on this because of performance of personnel in the military. But not much has been done in the commercial fishing industry. And I think that’s the big thing.”   

AMSEA has partnered with national organizations for a two year, first-ever project with 200 randomly selected fishermen in Alaska, Oregon and the Northeast.

“I don’t think I’ve had one person tell me it’s not a problem.”

Dzugan said the goal is to better understand their concerns about sleep patterns and the possible effects of sleep deprivation on their health and safety.

Funding for the project comes from the US Coast Guard  and the National Institute for Occupational Health.

NIOSH spokesperson Julie Sorensen told National Fisherman that interviewed fishermen have said they wonder how negative effects of sleep deprivation will impact their cognitive ability as they get older.

And many said they are curious about energy drinks, naps, their diet, and other areas that affect their sleep and overall health.

Researchers also are following fishermen’s sleep patterns through a tracking app and will do health exams this summer and fall. Dzugen said AMSEA may recruit gillnetters from Cordova and Southeast Alaska for that part of the project.

The group also will produce a podcast with information about sleeping at sea.

Find links to the project called “Assessments of Sleep Deprivation and Associated Health and Cognitive Impacts in Commercial Fishermen” at or call (800) 343-7527.