Survey shows fishers stressed

A NATIONWIDE survey has revealed modern uncertainties like marine parks and changing quotas are contributing to the poor mental health of fishermen.

Almost 1000 registered commercial fishers completed and returned the survey.

Lead researcher Dr Tanya King said the data had painted a more “alarming” picture of industry worker’s mental health than first thought.

“For quite a long time we have been hearing about depression, suicide and family breakdown in the fishing industry but there was no quantitative data.”

She said the survey results showed a 19 per cent rate of depression among industry workers compared to the estimated national diagnosis of 10 per cent.

“To be honest, we expected it to be bad but we didn’t anticipate results as alarming as this,” Dr King said. 

Dr King said in the past anecdotal evidence of the mental health struggles of people working in the fishing industry had been written off.

However, the recent survey has backed up the anecdotal evidence and has given researchers a snapshot of the industry and its workers.

“We do know that things like isolation, the danger of the industry and unsocial working hours are not what is stressing workers in the industry out because it’s precisely what they signed up for,” Dr King said. 

“What is stressing people out are the modern uncertainties like government changes, closures, licence restrictions – all of things mean there is this perpetual uncertainty.”

Dr King said she hoped the research could be used to get funding for programs to match those provided to the farming industry. 

She said there was a difference in the cultural value placed on the fishing industry compared to other primary production sectors, like farming.

“There are not-for-profit organisations set up to keep farmers on the land and the community recognises and supports the agriculture industry but there is a big distinction in the way it values the fishing industry,” Dr King said.

“There is no reason to undervalue the fishing industry, they have a good history of custodianship but they can’t own water like a farmer owns land so they are hit by political cycle after political cycle and it’s having an impact on their mental wellbeing.”

Dr King said hopefully the data would help generate change.