Qld 2020 News Posts #05: Mental Health and Commercial Fisheries

Posted in Industry News

Productivity Commission

The Productivity Commission has released a draft report, ‘Mental Health: Overview and Recommendations’.

Some disturbing issues have been identified including:

  • In any year, approximately one in five Australians experiences mental ill-health. While most people manage their health themselves, many who do seek treatment are not receiving the level of care necessary. As a result, too many people suffer additional preventable physical and mental distress, relationship breakdown, stigma, and loss of life satisfaction and opportunities (Page 2, Overview and Recommendations Draft Report).
  • The cost to the Australian economy of mental ill-health and suicide is, conservatively, in the order of $43 to$51 billion per year. Additional to this is an approximately $130 billion cost associated with diminished health and reduced life expectancy for those living with mental ill-health (Page 2, Overview and Recommendations Draft Report).

With the impacts on the national economy in the billions, the need to talk about mental health is critical.

You can still draft a submission, make a comment or attend a public hearing: Productivity Commission

Sustainable Fishing Families Developing Industry Human Capital through Health, Wellbeing, Safety and Resilience – King et al (2019)

The report explored the mental health and stress levels of Australian commercial fishers led by Dr Tanya King of Deakin University and her colleagues. The Association remains alarmed at the level of psychological distress identified in the report and confirms what industry has suspected for some time.

The report noted the following physical and mental health findings:

  • 60% of fishers who responded to the survey had moderate to very severe bodily pain. This is higher than reported by the ABS on the general population at 46.5%.
  • Over half of the respondents said pain had interfered with their normal activities.
  • The most common health symptoms experienced by the fishers surveyed included back pain, joint pain, fatigue, stress, trouble sleeping, sunburn, infections, and hearing problems. Over 30% of surveyed fishers experienced these health symptoms.
  • Surveyed fishers reported being diagnosed with a number of conditions at a higher rate that the general population, particularly high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
  • Commercial fishers who responded to the survey experience significantly higher levels of ‘high’ and ‘very high’ psychological distress than the Australian population as a whole. High or very high levels of psychological distress were experienced by 16.0% and 6.2% of fisher respondents respectively, compared to 8.0% (high) and 3.7% (very high) of Australians aged 18 years and over.

The report presents the views of fishers themselves who identify the perpetual uncertainty generated by current fisheries management strategies as the key contributor to their stress. Described as ‘modern uncertainties’, these kinds of stressors include closures, restructures and reforms, as well as the perpetual threat of livelihood loss through such management changes, which are happening in Queensland as well as around the country.

You only need to look in Queensland at the introduction of the politically motivated net free zones (NFZs) and the shambolic role out of the so-called fisheries reform process.  What industry sees is a toxic mix of the ongoing politicisation of commercial fisheries, a demonstrated lack of understanding of commercial fishers or their businesses from fisheries management and policy making as a response to the political influence of recreational and conservation groups.

According to the report, the top source of stress is related to uncertainty (uncertainty about future changes to government regulations). The second and third top sources of stress were also government related, government regulations on access and red tape. These were followed by negative media and poor public image.

From a Queensland perspective, the stress and gaslighting led by recreational and conservation groups is almost an essential part of their DNA and will likely never change. What is needed are political parties that take a community-wide view of fisheries management and not an unquestioning need to appease recreational fishing and conservation groups. Until this takes place industry will continue to face the pressures and negative mental and physical health outcomes identified by Dr King and her colleagues.

Industry Health

The Association has developed podcast material regarding mental health and has worked with researchers to help examine this important issue: Industry Health

Author: Eric Perez, CEO, Queensland Seafood Industry Association (QSIA).

Image: QSIA.

This message is endorsed by and proudly brought to you by the QSIA under the Qld 2020 campaign in the interests of achieving better fisheries management for industry and the community.  Qld 2020 is about: a fair go – for food producers, their families and regional / coastal small business job creators.

Qld 2020 News Posts #04: To export or not to export?