Stressors, salutogenesis and coping mechanisms of commercial fishing in Alaska: Factors affecting fishermen.

Jennifer Pickett, Joeri Hofmans

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In Alaska, commercial fishing is still 29 times more dangerous than any other occupation in the US (Syron et al., 2017). Nearly 200 fishing related fatalities occurred during the period of 2000-2014. Vessel disasters, such as sinking, capsizing, running aground, fires and falling overboard are common occurrences. Working with such exposure to hazards is not only dangerous but also inherently demanding and stressful. Additionally, there are other requirements of fishing that are physically and psychologically stressful such as isolation, confinement, boredom, monotony, social frictions, long-hours, arduous work, sleep deprivation and financial difficulties (Pollnac et al., 2011). However, despite all that, many fishermen return year after year to fish another season. So why is it that these hardships do not persuade them to quit? Undoubtedly, fishermen employ psychological defence mechanisms to minimize the perception of threats (Pollnac & Poggie, 2008) such as denial or compartmentalizing. Moreover, they might also return because of the positive aspects of fishing that fishermen experience, such as the beautiful nature and wildlife, professional pride and comradery amongst crewmembers. Regardless, a better understanding of such severe conditions encountered, how fishermen adapt to them and the effect they have on wellbeing is important in order to improve resources and policy for fishermen. In the present research, we study stressors (i.e., stimulus that causes stress), coping mechanisms (i.e., how people deal with stressors) and salutogenesis (i.e., positive, health-promoting experiences; Antonovsky, 1979) among a sample of Alaskan fisherpoets, a group of commercial fishermen who share their experiences of working on the sea through stories, poems and songs. By studying not only the challenges but also the positive aspects of fishing, we contribute to research on factors that allow individuals to adapt at sea. Methods Qualitative data were collected from 9 full-time Alaskan salmon fishermen. Interviews were analyzed with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, a methodology that allows for a rich, in-depth examination of how individuals make meaning of their experiences (Smith & Osborn, 2003). Results and Conclusions Fishermen’s experiences were divided into the stressors they encountered, the coping mechanisms they used to endure such challenges and also the salutogenic experiences they reported experiencing. Whereas physical and psychological stressors such as confinement, isolation and environment clearly have a negative impact on fishermen’s wellbeing, the use of coping mechanisms and salutogenesis undoubtedly has a positive effect. Focusing on how fishermen perceive and respond to the isolated, confined and extreme environments at sea contributes to a growing body of knowledge that links human performance in extreme environments with resilience to stress and salutogenesis. It is advantageous to know that there are beneficial, healthy and sustainable ways to psychologically manage dangerous work conditions, namely coping mechanisms, appreciation, reappraisal and employing a salutogenic outlook. The insights we obtained help give a realistic description of the profession and suggestions of fishermen can cope with the difficulties of their job in a sustainable way. Overall, a more nuanced understanding of the experiences and challenges that fishermen face can improve the resources and policy provided for them.
Originele taal-2English
StatusUnpublished - 23 nov 2018
EvenementEuropean Ocean Observing System Conference : Evolving EOOS: connecting communities for end-to-end solutions - The Egg, Brussels , Belgium
Duur: 21 nov 201823 nov 2018


ConferenceEuropean Ocean Observing System Conference
Verkorte titelEOOS
Internet adres


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