Merkley Joins Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Workers’ Physical and Behavioral Health in Commercial Fishing Industry 

Legislation would expand life-saving safety training and research grant opportunities for Oregon’s commercial fishing industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley joined U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) in the introduction of the Fishing Industry Safety, Health, and Wellness Improvement (FISH Wellness) Act, bipartisan legislation that would build upon the success of the Commercial Fishing Occupational Safety Research & Training Program to better address the range of occupational safety and health risks facing fishermen in this highly strenuous and dangerous industry, including worker fatigue and substance use disorder. This legislation would also increase the authorized funding for the program and make these research and training grants more accessible in Oregon and on every coast by eliminating the match requirement.

“Oregon’s commercial fishing industry is only as healthy as the people powering the industry,” said Senator Merkley. “This critical legislation makes sure our fishing community has the training and resources they need to provide for their families and return home safely each night.”

“Every day, our fishermen are faced with demanding and dangerous working conditions that take both a physical and mental toll, all while they work to bring food to the tables of families across the country,” said Senator Markey. “The FISH Wellness Act will provide much needed funding to ensure that fishermen are getting the information and resources they need to stay safe and healthy on the job.” 

“Fishermen contend with extreme weather, long distances and periods away from shore and family, and often strenuous working conditions—factors that contribute to the industry being consistently ranked among the most dangerous in the country,” said Senator Sullivan. “I’m glad to introduce the FISH Wellness Act with Senator Markey, which would expand job safety training opportunities to support our fishermen as they sustainably harvest a world-class renewable resource and strengthen our coastal economies.”

A copy of the FISH Wellness Act can be found HERE

Along with Merkley, Markey, and Sullivan, the FISH Wellness Act is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Roger Wicker (R-MS). 

The FISH Wellness Act is endorsed by Shrimp Producers Marketing Cooperative, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, Fishing Partnership Support Services, Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association, Massachusetts Fishermen Partnership, Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative, New England Young Fishermen’s Alliance, Fishing Communities Coalition, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. 

“The ‘FISH Wellness Act’ will provide the commercial fishing industry with the essential programs needed for occupational safety research, substance use disorder, and help mitigate certain health risks associated with the commercial fishing industry. This is a positive step forward in protecting the future generations of fishermen to come,” said Nick Edwards, Secretary of Shrimp Producers Marketing Cooperative (SPMC).

“Commercial fishing is a unique and dangerous occupation that challenges both the mind and body in the pursuit of sustainable seafood production,” said Heather Mann, Executive Director of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative. “On behalf of MTC members, I want to thank Senator Merkley for continually showing up for Oregon fishermen. This legislation will make it easier for fishermen to get the assistance they may need while minimizing the stigma attached to asking for help. We applaud Senator Merkley’s efforts in this area.”