STONINGTON — For the last few months, a handful of Midcoast and Downeast fishermen have been donning fitness trackers on their wrists to find out if wearable technology can safely provide helpful data to support fishermen’s health and well-being.
The Brunswick-based Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association has been working on projects to improve the mental health and well-being of fishermen and recently purchased WHOOP heart rate monitors to share with them.
A WHOOP can track recovery, cardiovascular strain and sleep. About five or six fishermen have been doing a sort of pre-test with the monitors to see if they are appropriate and safe for fishermen to wear and if the data they collect is even helpful and worth pursuing, said Monique Coombs, the director of community programs at the association.
Coombs hopes to get feedback from fishermen about if they would wear them and if they were comfortable.
“They don’t want to put something on that will get caught in a trap,” she said.
Coombs has been wearing a WHOOP for a couple of years and said they can give useful data on strain and sleep. For a profession such as lobstering, with its long hours and early mornings, this data could put hard numbers on the assumed toll that the profession takes on fishermen.
“I bet fishermen are in the red every day,” Coombs said.
Little data exists about fishermen’s mental health and how fatigue and repetitive use injuries affect health and safety.
WHOOP, which has also been working with the National Football League Players’ Association, the Women’s Tennis Association and the Department of Agriculture, started getting fishermen onboard with the wearables in August, according to company spokeswoman Melanie Prior.
“We heard at the time that the reception from the fishermen had been great, and people were interested in joining the project focused on supporting the health, safety and well-being of fishermen,” she wrote in an email. “We hope it continues to be a great experience and that their team has found value in being able to track key physiological metrics like heart rate variability, resting heart rate, respiratory rate and sleep staging to receive detailed, actionable feedback to optimize their sleep, strain and recovery.”
If the pre-test goes well, Coombs said her group may try handing out more trackers and do more controlled and official research.
“I would really love to see the project scale up,” she said.