Nov. 14, 2023 – As the crew of the clam vessel Lori Ann prepared to set out from Fairhaven, the fleet manager was told that something wasn’t right with a fisherman below deck. 

The manager climbed down into the cabin. There, he recalled, he found Thomas Post, a 48-year-old deckhand and father of two. The manager had worked with Post for years, and described him as an eccentric mentor to the young crew. 

But on Oct. 8, 2021, Post was sitting upright at the galley table. He was naked. His eyes were wide open. His skin was cold. He had no pulse. Post, who often slept on the boat the night before fishing trips, had died that morning due to the combined effects of fentanyl and cocaine. 

Post was just one of at least 70 New Bedford fishermen who died of drug overdoses in the five years between 2018 and 2022, according to state death records analyzed by The Light. 

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for commercial fishermen in Massachusetts, records show. The vast majority of those deaths involve fentanyl. Since 2015, the powerful synthetic opioid has killed fishermen more than anything else. More than car crashes. More than work-related accidents. More than heart disease or cancer.