FishAbility for Maine Fishermen – March 2021

By Brie Weisman, Occupational Therapist
Also published by
Commercial Fisheries News, March 2021
FishAbility, Fishing for a Lifetime, part of Maine AgrAbility

Fishermen’s work has been acknowledged by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Combining physical labor with working outdoors in the cold and wet, often on slick surfaces, all increase the likelihood of injuries. Those injuries can be acute, such as redfish bait stabbing through a gloved hand, leading to pain and infection. Or it can be a chronic condition, like shoulder pain from breaking traps, back pain from lifting heavy totes, or arthritis from enduring long periods in the wet and cold.

Fishermen tend to work through pain and injury. Unfortunately, working with an injury can lead to chronic pain, resulting in reduced productivity – temporarily or even permanently. A fisherman working through pain may work more slowly; or protect his injury by compensating with other body parts; or do tasks in a risky manner in order to lessen pain while still getting the job done.

Maine AgrAbility is a grant-funded program with the mission to serve farmers, loggers, and fishermen in Maine who’ve had an illness, accident, or injury and want to keep working. Our fishing industry-specific program, FishAbility, provides free on-site assessments by Occupational Therapists (OTs) for fishermen to help determine if they would benefit from adaptive equipment or adaptive techniques to help reduce pain and injury and increase productivity. OTs are health care providers who understand human anatomy and physiology and disease process. They know how the body works. They are experts at analyzing work tasks and modifying or customizing them to suit the specific needs of individual workers.

Although FishAbility does not have funding to pay for equipment or physical changes in the workplace, we have partnered with Alpha One and Vocational Rehabilitation to help provide funding for many of our clients.

Are you “in this boat”?

Do you know a fellow fishermen, friend, or family member who might benefit from advice from an OT?

If you think you or others would benefit from an assessment, or if you have more questions about our services, contact us

lobster fisherman in captains chair
Click to watch the entire video ‘Lobster Fishing with a Disability’

Keeping it Local

An excerpt from an interview with Steve, Captain of the Dark Sider, about how Maine FishAbility has helped him.

What is your injury?  I was paralyzed from a hunting accident and fell 20’ while attempting to put up a tree stand.

What happened after the accident?  I was 38 years old at the time. I had to do something, I thought about college and that good stuff. But I wanted to stay in the area.

What do you do for work?  I am a lobsterman. I continue to captain a boat and I have a lot of people to help me.

How did FishAbility help you?  They were instrumental in getting me a vehicle. It allows me to go to the dock and do my errands. They would do what they had to help me. I’m independent and I would have wanted to do it myself. It keeps me sane. Without my mode of transportation, I wouldn’t be able to go out of my area. It makes me feel more normal. I try to live a certain way to show people they can live with a major trauma.