MACHIAS — A survey has gone out to local licensed lobster boat captains and shellfish harvesters to try and learn about the work-related health problems they may experience and the barriers they face in accessing health care.
Tora Johnson, a professor at the University of Maine Machias, started the study after she heard increasing concerns about a variety of health and health care access issues faced by local harvesters and their crew.
In an industry that is often under insured, injuries can “snowball,” Johnson said.
“For many harvesters, we’ve heard that that may lead to addiction,” she said. “We want to understand the problem and figure out what harvesters say – and people who work closely with harvesters say – might be the solution.”
The study is being conducted by the university with help from the Downeast Lobstermen’s Association, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries, Community Caring Collaborative and Downeast Fisheries Partnership. It is targeting the Downeast area and Johnson was hoping to hear from harvesters in Hancock and Washington counties.
The survey will be confidential and there will be no identifying information released.
“We want people to be frank and open with us and feel safe and secure telling us what’s going on with them,” Johnson said.
Survey takers also have the option to opt in for a further interview with researchers. Harvesters that complete the survey will receive $10 Visa gift cards and those who participate in interviews will receive $50 gift cards.
The survey started about a month ago and Johnson wanted to run it for several more weeks. It is planned to branch out into a larger study. Johnson will also survey healthcare providers, dealers, emergency medical responders and mental health therapists about what they are seeing in relation to harvesters’ health.
The survey was sent out to license holders, but Johnson also hoped to reach sternmen and crew members who aren’t on the mailing lists. The university has gotten more than 100 responses so far.
“We want to get the word out and would love to hear from more,” she said.
Harvesters with questions can reach out to Johnson at [email protected] or (207) 255-1214.
The survey is available at https://bit.ly/harvester-health-survey-21.