Lawmakers call for expansion of safety program to address critical health issues
Proposal aims to increase funding and remove cost share component
PORTLAND, Maine — A group of lawmakers from New England and Alaska are advocating for an expansion of a federal program that safeguards the health and wellbeing of commercial fishermen. The lawmakers are urging for the inclusion of substance use disorder and worker fatigue in the program, which currently funds research and training to address the hazardous conditions faced by fishermen at sea.
Supported by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the proposal seeks to provide fishermen with enhanced safety training and mental health resources. The lawmakers introduced the proposal last week, recognizing the physical and mental toll that the demanding and dangerous working conditions take on the nation’s fishermen.
Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, another proponent of the change, highlights the significance of the proposed expansion. With Alaska being the leading producer of seafood in the country and New England housing the top U.S. port in terms of seafood value, the need for increased support is evident.
To achieve this, the lawmakers are aiming to raise the program’s annual funding from $6 million to $12 million. Additionally, they propose removing the cost share component from the program. These adjustments would enable fishermen to access vital resources without financial burdens.
The inclusion of substance use disorder and worker fatigue acknowledges the unique challenges faced by commercial fishermen and emphasizes the importance of mental and behavioral health support. Andrea Tomlinson, founder and executive director of the New England Young Fishermen’s Alliance, emphasizes the necessity of providing the next generation of fishermen and women with comprehensive care.
“Providing our next generation of fishermen and women with the mental health and substance abuse care that they need is vital to the success of our industry,” Tomlinson said.
As one of the most dangerous occupations in the country, the commercial fishing industry requires increased attention to the wellbeing of its workforce. The proposed expansion of the federal program would ensure that fishermen receive the information and resources necessary to stay safe and healthy on the job.