BLUE HILL – The Lifejackets for Lobstermen Project has two vans that, by the end of October, will have visited 43 harbors along the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts.
Stocked with 11 different models of lifejackets and buoyancy aids, the vans are giving fishermen everywhere the opportunity to try on personal flotation devices (PFDs) to see what will work for them. Lobstermen with a commercial harvester’s license are eligible to purchase these devices at the vans for a 50 percent discount. All the devices in the vans were selected based on feedback from over 550 commercial lobstermen.
Next week, the vans are headed Downeast. After visiting Rockland on Monday and Tuesday, the vans will head to ports between South Blue Hill and Sorrento with stops on Mount Desert Island on the way.
Falls overboard are the most frequent cause of death in the Northeast lobster fishing industry. These events can happen in a split second, without the time to put on a life saving device.
In Wiscasset, a fisherman from Phippsburg came to meet one of the vans after he missed its visit to his home harbor. He told the van crew, “Everyone knows someone that never came home. I’d never worn a lifejacket, and I never really thought about it. You guys called me to do a survey and it got me thinking, and I keep thinking about it.”
He tried on several different PFDs and wound up buying a set of Stormline bibs. He was not alone.
Many commercial lobstermen have taken advantage of the one-time discount. The project has sold over 500 lifejackets to commercial lobstermen.
The Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety (NEC) is running this project, in collaboration with Fishing Partnership Support Services, Maine Lobstermen’s Association, Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, McMillan Offshore Survival Training and the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association.
The van schedule for visits in Hancock County is:
Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 18 and 19, South Blue Hill dock;
Friday, Sept. 20, and Monday, Sept. 23, Bass Harbor at the harbormaster’s office;
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 24 to 26, Manset Town Dock in Southwest Harbor;
Friday, Sept. 27, and Monday, Sept. 30, Northeast Harbor Town Pier;
Tuesday, Oct. 1, through Thursday, Oct. 3, Bar Harbor Municipal Pier;
Friday, Oct. 4, and Monday, Oct. 7, Lamoine State Park;
Tuesday, Oct. 8, Sorrento, Town Pier.
All visits are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.