Commercial fishing has a reputation as a risky occupation. Being sleep deprived on a boat surrounded by moving machinery on an unpredictable ocean appeals to a certain type of person, but most will reduce risk if they can.

To that end, a Coast Guard program administered by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) aims to assist by offering $6 million in grants to improve safety in the fishing industry.

“There is $3 million for research and $3 million for training,” says Ted Teske, health communications specialist at NIOSH. “The program has been around since 2019, and we already have grants out there. But those grants had to be matched by 50 percent. These grants only have to be matched by 25 percent.”

Teske notes that research grants enable outside groups to do work similar to what NIOSH does in-house. He adds that grants have already been awarded, including one to Oregon State University for a study on how to reduce musculoskeletal injuries in the Dungeness crab fishery, and another to the American Bureau of Shipping to create a system for monitoring hazards. Training grants have been awarded to organizations including the Fishing Partnership: Support Services for Commercial Fishermen and others.

“Grants have ranged from $75,000 to over $900,000 over a three-year period,” says Teske. “The eligibility is pretty broad.  And the lower matching requirement makes them available to smaller organizations. So if you were a harbormaster, for example, and you wanted to make the ladders on your wharf safer, you could apply.”

There will be two grant deadlines, Teske notes. “The first one is Jan. 31, and the next one is Aug. 29.  So it’s a little tight for January, but you have plenty of time for the one in August.”

To make the process easier for smaller applicants, the NIOSH website has a FAQ page with links to helpful information on how to write and submit grants. “The idea is to help ease people into the process,” says Teske – and make the work of commercial fishermen a little less risky.


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Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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