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MIT Sea Grant fisheries emergency manual expanded to include fishing communities in Maine and New Hampshire

MIT Sea Grant adapted information from community leader interviews, based on a step-by-step manual designed to help fishing communities in Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire to help them prepare for and respond to crises.

Fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. Facing loss of vessels and lives in the communities is not uncommon. As the “graying of the fleet” continues, traditional leaders in the fishing communities continue to retire, reducing the local and historic knowledge base. Recording and documenting these community leaders’ institutional knowledge for the benefit of future generations is critical for the safety of fishing communities.

MIT Sea Grant worked with Harvard School of Public Health and Fishing Partnership Support Services to expand the Massachusetts emergency response manual, Responding to Emergencies at Sea and to Communities Under Extreme Stress (RESCUES), of best practices for fishermen, fishing communities, political leaders, and the Coast Guard to use when a fisherman or boat is lost at sea to include fishing communities in Maine and New Hampshire fishermen. Over 20 community members and experts were interviewed by one of the authors or a trained community researcher. The interviews were coded so themes could be systematically identified. MIT Sea Grant consolidated all the information into a manual with locally specific information for fishing communities that is easy-to-read and provides step-by-step guidance to help Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine fishing communities prepare for and respond to crises.

This manual preserves critical local fishing community knowledge for future generations, making fishing communities safer over time. The Coast Guard reviewed and endorsed the manual. Two hundred printed copies were distributed throughout the New Hampshire and Maine fishing communities through the Maine Fishermen’s Forum; public events; hands-on safety training; and individual meetings.