by Amanda Smith, Coastal Opportunities Advisor at MaineStreet Business Building

The majority of working waterfront folks that I know envision working in their careers for the rest of their lives. Due to much of this work being physically demanding and repetitive, it’s no surprise that there are many that work aboard a boat that are also impacted by varying degrees of arthritis in the joints of their back, wrists, hands, knees, and ankles. We know other injuries can happen as we know many that have lost a finger or two (or more) to accidents that have occurred. Given the level of physical activity required, when injury or disability occur, this could put the goal of working that career for the rest of their lives at risk.

FishAbility PDF Cover of Resources and Link to UMaine websiteMaine’s FishAbility program, a subprogram of AgrAbility (a collaboration between the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Alpha One), recognizes the physical impact these careers have on the body and the importance of connecting our fishermen, farmers, forest workers, and their families to resources, supports, and education so they can continue to have successful careers in agriculture. Fishing, logging, and farming are three of Maine’s four heritage industries that continue to significantly contribute to our economy and the many that already work in these roles intend to continue in them until long after “retirement age”. It’s vital we connect with the supports available to us so that we can achieve this goal and continue to support our economy.

FishAbility supports fishermen, lobstermen, seaweed farmers, and those working in aquaculture to minimize injury and pain and to avoid reduced productivity. Family members of these businesses who experience barriers to employment such as aging, injury, or chronic illness are also eligible for assistance. Services are provided at no charge and include connecting individuals to local resources, providing site visits to work with business owners to identify ways to adapt/modify worksites to make the work easier and more productive, connections to funding possibilities for costly adaptations, small business development or alternative enterprise education if the disability or chronic health condition has become too severe to continue in the current line of work, and more.

Additionally, training and education to health care providers, emergency response agencies, and other community groups about agricultural workers with disabilities is provided.

You can read more about the program at: . If you’re interested in connecting with FishAbility, we can help. Contact either Amanda Smith at or (207) 259-0755 or Dodie Emerson at or (207) 271-2132 and we can help get you connected.

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