Deakin University is conducting the first nationwide examination of the health of Australia’s fisheries workers to identify stress and mental health challenges affecting the sector.
The project begins with worker survey to gain a better understanding of the industry which contributes $2.8 billion to Australian economy every year.
The survey is funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC).
Dr Tanya King, Deakin University senior lecturer and the project’s leader, said the survey comes after anecdotal reports of high levels of stress and poor mental health of fisheries workers.
She said because of organisations such as as BeyondBlue and the National Centre for Farmer Health, there are is a lot of information about the health of workers in the farming sector, but not as much in the fishing industry.
“For example, it’s difficult to even provide an accurate estimate of the number of people in the industry as 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,” Dr King said.
A board member of Seafood Industry Victoria, Dr King’s previous research found that there is little hard data on issues such chronic job insecurity and government policy around fishing licenses that is affecting the health of fishers.
King highlighted that the survey would provide a better idea of the nation’s fishing industry and will help inform health programs for the fishing sector.
“A lot of focus is given to the health of our fisheries – and they’re in good shape – but we’ve tended to overlook the value of the people within the industry who keep everything ticking over,” Dr King said.
“It is 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.”