FishAbility for Maine Fishermen – Energy Conservation

By Brie Weisman, Occupational Therapist
Also published by
Commercial Fisheries News

Commercial fishing involves working in harsh environments and being in physically and mentally strenuous situations. Energy Conservation can help; it’s the practice of examining tasks and structuring them to minimize muscle fatigue, joint stress, and pain by using your body efficiently and ergonomically.

Weather challenges: Being outdoors in wet, cold, heat and wind saps your energy.

  • Wear proper clothing and footwear for the environment.
  • Drink enough fluid to stay hydrated.

Boat environment: Being on your feet on a rocking boat for hours on end requires your core to be constantly engaged in keeping you balanced. This constant, low level challenge is an often unnoticed drain of energy over the course of the day.

  • Use anti-fatigue style mats.
  • Use of friction paint or other deck surfacing minimizes the amount of energy spent staying balanced on your feet.
  • Improve your core strength through exercise.

Strenuous tasks: Fishing involves hard physical labor and often brute force seems like the most efficient choice. While using maximum physical effort may seem quicker, it will also rob your energy more rapidly making you fatigued earlier.

  • Use equipment to haul heavy gear or heft with a coworker.
  • Slide gear along the deck or gunnel rather than lifting.
  • Working at a height 2” below your elbows will reduce back wear and tear.
  • Limit bending, lifting and twisting.
  • Sitting whenever possible will save 25% of your energy.

Stress: Safety, weather, and finances are just a few of the stressors fishermen endure. Stress is an unhealthy and exhausting strain on our bodies.

  • Use of breathing techniques can immediately reduce stress.
  • Healthy diet, regular exercise, and meditation are all proven stress reducers.
  • For longer term stress management, talk to your primary care provider.

In order to be productive, it’s essential to maintain your health and safety. Even minor changes can lower the risk of injury and improve productivity.


fisherman hauling kelp line onto boat while a woman oversee the harvestKeeping it Local

Phoebe Jekielek, Research Director at Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership, is a marine biologist specializing in marine science and policy.

What’s the hardest part of your job working with scallop aquaculture?

We used to haul up everything by hand – which is hard on your shoulders and back. I didn’t think that pulling up the bottom cages by hand would be such a big deal, but it became one. It’s exhausting and dangerous. So it becomes a safety issue and is absolutely an efficiency issue.

Why do you love working with scallops?

Scallops are the most charismatic of the bivalves, they interact with you. You can actually see inside them. They’re a very important part of our fishing, and now farming, industry.

What’s the most surprising thing about this work?

“The community. I had no idea that we would be welcomed into such a supportive, innovative, community of growers. Everyone has their own way of doing things and each site is different and unique.

What’s your favorite piece of equipment?

Our 24′ Carolina skiff, Speed Square. It provides an amazing platform for work allowing us to load it up with a bunch of gear and go diving off of it. It has a pot hauler, which has become essential to us.

What’s the one thing you can’t leave the dock without?

“Boots are pretty essential to protect your feet and keep you dry and warm. And a pair of gloves, and a life jacket.”