One of the most troubling problems currently facing the nation as a whole, is perhaps even more troubling with respect to the fishing & maritime industries, & that is the epidemic of drug related, over-dose deaths!

I have been following this issue very closely, in hopes that we may find a way to minimize the terrible tolls that it often times extracts. As one of the founding members of the Massachusetts Fishermen’s Partnership (MFP) & the Fishing Partnership Support Services (FPSS), I have very strong feelings about the recent scourge brought on by drug overdoses of not only fishermen, & mariners, but of a troubled society as well.

Until we are able to prevent the use of these drugs, we are left with trying to minimize the loss of life due to their use! Surprisingly, we do have such an opportunity, naloxone (Narcan). Narcan is being used by first responders to save lives of people, from every walk of life, every day.

However, it is unfortunate though, that in some sectors of the fishing industry, there is a strong reluctance to adopt its use, & have it on hand. Some owners & Captains do not want to be seen as possibly condoning or abetting drug use onboard.

Having it on hand, in this case, would be having it onboard as part of the first aid kit of every fishing vessel, where it might prove to be a life-saver when a first responder is unavailable. Some Captains & owners have taken steps to obtain the minimal amount of training that could possibly save someone’s life.

That brings me to another major flaw in this calamity, or one point that I haven’t seen in any of the ongoing discussions up to now!

The first responder to an overdose at sea, is undoubtedly going to be the US Coast Guard, & what is not well known, is that they are currently prohibited from carrying & utilizing Narcan aboard their vessels! The MFP & the FPSS are currently trying to remedy this problem, but for some reason the USCG is reluctant to adopt its use, & have it be available as part of their medical kit when timely action is of the utmost necessity!

A strange reaction from one of the most revered humanitarian response teams a seaman is ever likely to need to call on?

At one time, alcohol was the preferred drug of choice of many seamen. That did not prevent a fairly large amount of aspirin or Alka-Seltzer from being carried onboard, so as not to be seen as abetting hang-overs. It’s time to look at this realistically, & take appropriate steps to prevent an untimely & unfortunate death.

As a closing thought, I truly believe that some of the insurers of fishing vessels should become more aware of what would likely become an expensive injury suite, if it were shown that, but for political correctness, a death could likely have been prevented.

Jim Kendall
New Bedford Seafood Consulting
August 2, 2017