Session 5A – Obstacles to Performing Occupational Safety and Health Research in Commercial Fishing

Tuesday, June 12, 9:00am – 10:30am, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1049

Jeffrey Levin, University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler; Ann Carruth, Southeastern Louisiana University; Thu Bui, Louisiana Sea Grant; Robert Perkins, U.S. Coast Guard (Presentation slides).


Researchers involved in community-based participatory research often face challenges due to numerous dynamic factors, including the physical location of the study population, willingness to participate, politics, language barriers, cultural norms, social stigmas, immigration issues and unpredictable weather and other disasters. Investigators who work with commercial fishermen are all too familiar with these confounding elements. For over a decade, researchers with the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention and Education (SW Ag Center) have faced these challenges head on to improve the health and safety of commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. The lead presenter in this panel is Jeffrey Levin, MD, MSPH, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler. Dr. Levin has over 25 years of experience in occupational medicine and research and he has served as the Center Director for the SW Ag Center since 2002. Dr. Levin will draw from his twelve years of experience with commercial fishing research to discuss obstacles in planning research activities amidst natural and man-made disasters, e.g. hurricanes and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Dr. Levin has four publications related to his project, Innovative Approaches to Worker Health Protection among Shrimp Fishermen of the Gulf Coast.

Ann Carruth, DNS, RN, another seasoned commercial fishing researcher, will discuss the cultural factors that determine how commercial fishermen respond to a disaster. Dr. Carruth is a Professor and Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Southeastern Louisiana University. In the Gulf of Mexico, commercial fishermen are culturally diverse with large cohorts of Vietnamese and Hispanic owners, captains and deck hands. In 2014, Dr. Carruth and Dr. Levin published “Cultural Influences on Safety Training among Vietnamese Shrimp Fishermen” in the Journal of Agromedicine. Dr. Carruth was a key partner to Dr. Levin’s project and she recently completed a five-year study entitled, Marketing Safety and Health among Vietnamese Commercial Fishermen. In 2016, Dr. Carruth was funded for another five years by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to investigate the thermal load on PFD use among shrimp fishermen.

The SW Ag Center works closely with Sea Grant to access fishing populations and identify opinion leaders who can communicate with fishermen in their primary language. Thu Bui, a Marine Agent from Louisiana Sea Grant, will discuss her role as a research collaborator and community liaison. She will also expand upon the cultural influences that impact research participation.

Research with commercial fishermen would be practically impossible without support and cooperation from the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The SW Ag Center has a long working relationship with the Fishing Vessel Safety Examiners along the Gulf Coast. Robert Perkins, USCG District 8 Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Coordinator will complete the panel and offer insights into the USCG’s role in safety training and research.

The panel session will conclude with a discussion of challenges to research within commercial fishing populations. Creative solutions will be shared to overcome barriers and build trust in culturally diverse communities.


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