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Winter Newsletter

A word from our Chair, Geoff Donley

Kia Ora and welcome to the first FirstMate newsletter.

FirstMate NZ has now been running for almost two years and we’re making a real and very profound difference to many of our fishers and marine farmers’ lives.

We’re launching a newsletter as there is much to share and we would love for you to be part of our journey.

We completed the pilot for FirstMate in October 2022, and it reinforced how vital it is that there is mental health and wellbeing support for our fishers, marine farmers and their whānau.

The FirstMate Board is focused on understanding the needs of our fishers and how we can create a sustainable organisation to support them.

FirstMate is needed! The number of fishers reaching out for our support is on the rise. We were on the ground after the cyclone in March, working closely with our fishers and agencies to determine what help those impacted needed.

We’ve been at the end of a telephone for those that have reached out for everything ranging from personal wellbeing to advice on business. And we’re expecting, as more people become aware of our services, to hear from even more of our seafood whānau.

The Ministry of Primary Industries were invaluable in their support to launch FirstMate and fund the organisation. From this year, our focus is on finding funding support to be able to continue to offer this vital service.

Earlier this year we also welcomed Mary Schumacher as our General Manager to support us in delivering this crucial service.

We recently submitted on the Fisheries Transformation Plan. We believe that any changes to the seafood sector should have the impacts on health and wellbeing of the people in the sector at the forefront of thinking. You can read our submission online HERE.

A little bit about us

FirstMate NZ formed in 2021 as a charity run by people who understand what it means to be part of New Zealand’s dynamic and challenging seafood industry.

We are unique. There are no other organisations doing what we do for New Zealand Aotearoa’s fishers and their whānau.

We support the health and wellbeing of people across the commercial seafood sector and our goal is to offer our seafood whānau and businesses the guidance, direction, resources and support they need to better navigate the pressures and complexities that come with the job.

Each member of our team brings a unique set of skills and expertise to our organisation, and together we do our best to help the seafood community through the hard times and to provide them with one-on-one support when it’s needed the most.

We have 16 Navigators based across the country. They have deep knowledge of the

seafood sector and many of them have been through tough times too. Now, they want to give something back to the sector. There is no agenda and no judgement, just a willingness to put our fishers and whānau first.

What we do

  • We represent our fishers (fisher centric approach)

  • We support fishers through access to a database of local and national experts, including those dealing with physical and mental health, business and finance, and technical aspects of the seafood industry, including innovation. Our team or Navigators can connect fishers to these support people.

  • We make connections through FirstMate-organised activities in local communities, such as innovation sessions, wellbeing workshops and social events for the entire family.

  • We help with resources and a wide range of free materials on our website that we’ve developed to give tips and ideas on how to prevent problems cropping up in the first place.

Why having mental health and wellbeing support is so important

We know that fishers and marine farmers have a strong sense of identity and are proud of their job, but that many are not satisfied with life.

We hear concerns that people don’t see themselves staying in the industry long-term. There are many stressors that contribute to these feelings; economic pressures, regulatory changes, societal stigma and hostility (and dawdling seafood communities), social and family disconnection from long periods at sea, poor mental and physical wellbeing related to drug and alcohol use, exhaustion and poor sleep.

Knowing how our fishers are feeling reinforces why FirstMate is a support for those that need to reach out.

Please note that this infographic reflects the support by the entity set up in 2019 that in 2021 became FirstMate NZ.

New resources online

We know that sometimes it can be overwhelming finding what you want online, so we’ve done the hard work for you. We’ve reviewed some of the best mental health, depression, isolation and wellbeing resources there are to offer and have put them on our website so you can access them easily. There are some great resources for Māori and Pasifika too.

Recent media

Seafood NZ Magazine 

Read our recent articles in the Seafood NZ magazine (page 32-ish in each edition)  READ HERE

The Herald 

Darren Guard opinion piece 'Navigating the choppy waters of professional fishers READ HERE

Stuff Lifestyle

About our Trustee, Tamar Wells READ HERE


Listen to Darren Guard talk about why support is so important for our fishers LISTEN HERE


FirstMate works in collaboration with MarineSAFE, which is the free online learning tool for our fishing industry. This resource has a range of industry specific training courses and materials to help you with wellbeing, maritime health and safety, and even to refresh your seafaring knowledge.

Take a look HERE

How we let fishers know we’re here for them

We’re in fishing communities, we’re at events, conferences, wharves, we’re on social media and in the digital space, we’re doing more stories in the media, and we hope you will help by promoting us to your contacts, staff, networks…

And we have a whole range of information on our website HERE, please keep an eye on our events page for when we might be coming to a spot near you.

Nga mihi

The FirstMate team