The Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries (MCCF) in Stonington will receive a total of $469,658 over a three-year period through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Commercial Fishing Occupational Safety Research Cooperative Agreement and Training Project grant program. The funding will go toward expanding safety training and injury prevention programs for the next generation of Maine fishermen.
“The Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries plays a pivotal role in bridging the gaps between fishermen and women, scientific insights, and effective policy making,” said Senator Collins. “This investment will help keep our young fishermen and women safe while also protecting the sustainability of our fisheries.”
“With recent tragic deaths in both Hancock and Washington counties, the announcement of this grant unfortunately is quite timely,” MCCF executive director Alexa Dayton said. “We hope that with this level of training and education, accessible to all students, we can really impact fishing communities so that no additional lives are lost or individuals injured. Our hearts hurt for the loss of these incredible, hardworking young fishermen.”
“But with every great catch, there’s often a hook,” Dayton continued. “The award can only be unlocked through match contributions. With every dollar we are able to raise we will get closer to unlocking this amazing federal award.”
MCCF is a non-profit organization that works to secure a safe fishing future for the communities of Eastern Maine and beyond. To that end, the organization has launched a comprehensive three-year plan aimed at enhancing safety measures among young fishermen and those interested in marine-related work. Thanks to this funding award, MCCF will be able to provide safety and survival training for 250 future fishermen through area high schools, particularly those located in Hancock, Washington, and Knox counties.
MCCF’s safety training curriculum is an element of its Eastern Maine Skippers Program (EMSP), now in its 11th year. The program provides place-based hands-on education to students and sparks interest in environmental education, natural resource policy, engineering, and maritime careers
The Eastern Maine Skippers Program is delivered through an educational collaboration among local schools and teachers, through which MCCF is able to reach as many as 80 to 110 students each year. The program instills a culture of stewardship, engagement and safety-conscious behavior in students.
Recently, MCCF added a Deck Hand 101 course to its educational program lineup. This hands-on course is geared for young adults and recent high school graduates who are interested in gaining maritime skills and readiness for on-the-water careers. MCCF discovered a real training need within this age group, many of whom are working on ferries, docks, and shoreside with aspirations of working in fishing or vessel operations. MCCFs Deck Hand 101 pilot program also provides safety-at-sea and drill conductor curriculum content. It is funded by SEA Maine (Seafood Economic Accelerator Maine) this year, with hopes to continue in the spring of 2024.
With the federal funding award, the Center plans to work with John McMillan of McMillan’s Offshore Survival to provide the EMSP safety training curriculum components. McMillan brings decades of experience in delivering safety-at-sea and drill conductor trainings, and his talent with people of all ages is unparalleled.
“We want to replicate John,” said Tom Duym, MCCF fisheries education specialist. “As we look to the future we see the need for up to two additional qualified drill conductor instructors in Eastern Maine, just to make sure that we have long-term capacity in the region.” Two apprentices will be hired to learn from McMillan during the next three years. These new trainers then will continue to provide safety training services in the region for years to come.
MCCF will also continue to partner with Dr. Hollan Oliver of Coastline Physical Therapy to generate health and wellness training materials geared towards reducing repetitive biomechanical overload and occupational hazards, including deck safety, vibration, noise, and UV radiation. Dr. Oliver has long worked with Deer Isle fishermen and others in the treatment of work-related injuries. By teaching young people just starting out how best to protect themselves while working at sea, it is hoped that long-term injuries can be prevented. The educational and training materials will be made available to the fishing industry as well as the public via MCCF’s website and teacher portal.
MCCF’s Dayton looks forward to expanding safety training for young people through this award. “We still have a lot of work to do to get there, but we all know this is a vital element of our future,” she said.