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REF NO.: 82

SUBJECT: Promoting safety awareness in fishing communities through community arts
DATE: Nov. 3, 2005

The arts can play a very important role in promoting awareness of safety in the fishing industry. This is one of the findings The Bottom Line, a new report by SafetyNet researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“It is well known that the fishery remains a very dangerous industry,” said Dr. Michael Murray, a professor of Social and Health Psychology in the Division of Community Health and lead investigator of this study. “Factors contributing to accidents at sea include not only the weather, the design of fishing vessels and fishing regulations but also human behaviour.”

Dr. Murray said traditional safety education has focused on making individual fish harvesters more aware of safety regulations and procedures. “But we found that while this education has contributed to improvements in safety, there is a need to raise community awareness of safety issues and to consider collective as well as individual strategies for improving safety in the industry. Such an approach needs to be based upon local fishing communities’ cultural traditions and strengths.”

The Bottom Line presents details of the use of a range of arts-based activities including drama, music, writing and graphics designed to promote safety awareness in three fishing communities in Newfoundland. “In one community a play about a local fishing tragedy was written and performed,” said Dr. Murray. “This was coupled with a variety of other writing and musical activities. In another community a more established play about the hazards of fishing was performed along with songs. In the third community a number of activities including a breakfast meeting on safety, a supper dance and a video were organized.”

Local residents planned and performed all of the activities. Nat Hutchings is the mayor of Petty Harbour/Maddox Cove, one of the communities where the project was conducted. “This was an excellent project,” said Mr. Hutchings. “It got the message about safety out to large numbers of people in this community.”

Neil Tilley of the Extension Community Development Cooperative collaborated on the project. “Community arts is a very effective means of raising community awareness of safety and other issues. The people involved were very enthusiastic about the project and keen to develop other similar activities. We should be doing more of this type of community work.”

Dr. Murray said it is essential that the government invest in safety programs in order to improve safety in the fishing industry. “Government agencies should provide more support for the development of such campaigns in communities throughout the province.”

Dr. Murray also emphasized the importance of community involvement and education. “Working at the community level is the starting point for injury prevention and fishing safety education. Tragedies and accidents in the fishing industry do not just affect fishers. The impact is felt by the whole community.“

The project on promoting safety awareness in fishing communities through community arts was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Canadian Coast Guard New Initiatives Fund through an award made to SafetyNet, a community alliance on health and safety in marine and coastal work.

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