Sparking Conversations in Health and Wellbeing through the Fishing Forward Podcast – Food Tank – Food Tank

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A new podcast aims to discuss health and wellness challenges the commercial fishing community faces and explore solutions for limiting risk in the industry. The Fishing Forward Podcast is a collaboration between the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety (NEC) and Coastal Routes Radio at the University of Guelph, as well as several other partners.
In the United States, commercial fishing has among the highest rates of occupational fatalities. Hannah Harrison, co-host of the podcast and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Guelph, tells Food Tank that “many of the health and safety issues go beyond wearing a life jacket or training on how to evacuate your vessel.”
Inspiration for the podcast came from NEC researchers’ study on the impacts of sleep deprivation, caffeine consumption, and long periods at sea on commercial fishers’ health, wellbeing, and personal relationships. The NEC also conducted recent research on substance use disorders, finding that commercial fishers are at least four times more likely to die from opioid poisoning than non-fishers living in the same fishing ports.
The Fishing Forward podcast weaves together scientific expertise and narratives from across the commercial fishing community to address these challenges. Episodes also offer practical, tangible changes that individuals in the industry can make in their daily lives.
“We’ve learned a lot about how important it is for fishermen to hear directly from fishermen. They can share their thoughts, their challenges, and their solutions,” Rebecca Weil, Research Coordinator at NEC tells Food Tank.
The podcast focuses on a range of topics, including physical safety, diet and nutrition, hydration, cooking at sea, gender in commercial fisheries, and sleep. Julie Sorensen, Director of NEC, hopes that the podcast will encourage workers in the commercial fishing industry to understand that they “do not have to sacrifice [their] physical wellbeing, [their] long-term health or mental health.” Sorensen tells Food Tank that the goal of the podcast is to inspire them to “think long-term.”
The team also understands that recommendations such as getting eight hours of sleep a night is not actionable. Instead, the podcast hopes to provide some practical information while accounting for the complexity and limitations of individuals’ unique experiences. In the podcast’s sixth episode, for example, a fisher explains that he introduced sleeping shifts to ensure he has enough crew members on board. Future episodes dive further into other practical measures fishing crews can take to mitigate the realities of sleep loss.
The podcast also hopes to underscore the idea that “the relationship that food creates between the harvester or grower and the consumer is sometimes lost in the price,” Harrison tells Food Tank. Harrison adds that what consumers are really paying for “is not only this fantastic thing to eat, but also the person, their family, and their community that brought it to you.”
Through the podcast, Monique Coombs, Director of Community Programs at the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA) hopes that “fishermen feel more valued and that other people see the value in fishermen as human beings in this food system process.”
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Photo courtesy of Paul Einerhand, Unsplash

Vicky Brown Varela is a Costa Rican-South Carolinian Research and Writing Fellow at Food Tank. She earned her B.A. in International Studies from American University, where she focused on environmental sustainability and peace, global security, and conflict resolution. Her academic and professional interests include the field of political ecology, food sovereignty movements, and environmental peacemaking and peacebuilding. Vicky has worked on organic farms in Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine, and has conducted research in Costa Rica. She plans to pursue graduate studies in Visual Anthropology. In her free time, you can find her cooking vegan foods, going for long runs outdoors, and watching international films.
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