Features Public Health Research

Team FLIPPs for lifejackets

Research team works with local fishermen to increase wearability and availability of lifejackets.

Person indicating different lifejacket styles

By Kathryn Stroppel

Each November on the Oregon coast, fishermen, their wives and the community celebrate the start of Dungeness Crab season with a Fishermen’s Appreciation Day. This year, they tried on a variety of lifejackets and received a free lifejacket thanks to the FLIPP (Fishermen Led Injury Prevention Program) research team.

“It was amazing to have the Newport Fishermen’s Wives invite us to be part of Newport Fishermen’s Appreciation Day,” Professor Laurel Kincl says. “With their generous support, and the support of Englund’s Marine and Kent, we were able to offer lifejackets for free with a suggested donation.” 

Amelia Vaughan, ’07, is part of FLIPP, which gave away 95 lifejackets for captains and crew on at least 44 distinct commercial fishing vessels, which Amelia says is a great representation of the local Newport fleet. Fishermen also donated $1,400 to Newport Fishermen’s Wives to contribute to the effort. 

To further promote public health throughout the day, Lincoln County Public Health provided free flu vaccinations, and Oregon Community College brought nursing students to provide fishermen with basic health screenings.

Lifejackets for fishermen

The FLIPP for Lifejackets program, intended to identify lifejackets fishermen will wear and make them more affordable, is part of a five-year project funded by the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety & Health Center (PNASH).

The project involves researchers including Amelia and Laurel, as well as public health PhD student Allen Chan. The team just completed its first year and has been busy surveying and interviewing commercial fishermen and various stakeholders to learn about how to tailor a lifejacket program for Oregon fishermen that has been implemented in New England called Lifejackets for Lobstermen.

Next, the team will test lifejackets with fishermen from a variety of fisheries over the next six months and will refine its plan to launch a mobile lifejacket program in Oregon and Washington.

The team asked fishermen to provide input on the designs and features they want from a lifejacket that they can wear while fishing and also provided education about lifejacket maintenance.

“Importantly, we want to make it possible for commercial fishermen to walk away with the lifejacket they will wear,” Amelia says. “We are partnering with lifejacket manufacturers, our regional marine suppliers and fishing communities to see how this can all come together for commercial fishermen in the Pacific Northwest.” 

The team is working with manufacturers Stormline, Kent, Mustang, Spinlock, Datrex and Hero, as well as retailers Englund Marine and Fisheries Supply. Fishermen’s groups Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union, Mid Water Trawlers Cooperative, Newport Fishermen’s Wives, Columbia River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission and WEFish also are involved, as are three government agencies, including USCG District 13, WDFW, OR/WA State Marine Board and NIOSH.