NORTHEAST HARBOR – Researchers launched a new life jacket van to make life jacket use easy and affordable for lobstermen
Life jackets can mean the difference between drowning and staying alive, especially if you fall overboard into the cold sea waters, so members of the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety are selling fisherman life jackets and other flotation devices to make sure they stay safe at sea.
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, lobster fishing deaths accounted for the highest number of occupational fatalities in east coast fisheries between 2010 and 2014.
In response to that, the N.E.C created the Life Jackets for the Lobstermen project, in which Field Research Coordinators Mandy Roome and Erin Lally drive vans around to market the jackets and work with New England fishermen.
“The commercial fishing industry in general, from the study, it was found that the lobster aspect of it, had the most man overboard incidents and no one wears a life jacket. So this is part of what we’re doing. We’re trying to get the education out there and trying to change the culture a little bit,” Lally said.
“We’ve talked with over 500 lobstermen and they’ve given us the feedback. So these are the favorable models so now this phase of the project is bringing these vans to ports along both Massachusetts and Maine and bringing these as demos so the guys can try them on, they can see what works for them, whats comfortable enough. They’re able to purchase them if they’re commercial lobstermen for fifty percent off,” Roome said.
Every day, lobstermen like Mark Fernald face the dangers of the open sea.
“The water is so cold and the work we do is so dangerous. Getting snarled up in a rope and getting pulled over and you got a minute or two before you’d be paralyzed by the cold,” Fernald said.
The life vests were designed after lobstermen told them what they would like to see in a life jacket.
“The peace of mind of it, I think it will, I’m hoping it will really work out. For 49 years I’ve never really worn them but I’ve just been reading about it and they’ve been saying that they’re making it more comfortable. So I thought I’d give it a try,” Fernald said.