One million steps closer to a safer fishing industry

Simon Potten, our Head of Safety and Training, shares an update on how recently announced funding will support fishermen's safety.

This month, Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani announced £1m of funding to support vital safety needs in the fishing industry. This is fantastic news and we are thrilled that the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and maritime charity Trinity House have asked Seafish to manage this work.

At a meeting in Trinity House earlier this month, we sat down with our partners from the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG) to discuss how this welcome funding should be used. Sitting with my peers at the MCA, the main fishing federations across the UK, RNLI, Fishermen’s Mission and Seafarers UK, it was clear that this could have a big impact on safety at sea.

The funding has been secured to support delivery of FISG’s 10-year Strategy to Eliminate Preventable Deaths in the Fishing Industry. The strategy identifies three key areas where FISG believes safety improvements will make a significant difference:

  • Man Overboard (Prevention and Recovery)
  • Small Fishing Vessel Stability
  • Accidents causing injury or death

Following the announcement and meeting, the funding has been ring-fenced for use in three main areas:

  • Additional training and information on vessel stability, Man Overboard prevention and recovery and other safety-related issues
  • New Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) with built-in Personal Locator Beacons (PLB)
  • A safety awareness campaign to encourage positive behaviour change

The FISG will now work together to prepare detailed proposals for the funding to be considered by MCA and Trinity House in September. If it is approved, delivery will start immediately.

One idea being considered is a programme of “cold water shock” events, intended to demonstrate the debilitating effect of cold water on the most basic functions. The RNLI ran this with fishermen in last year in the lifesaving charity’s sea survival pool in Dorset to improve survival techniques and recovery procedures.

Other proposals include workshops around the UK to explain to fishermen the requirements of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention and new requirements regarding small fishing vessel stability.

There is no doubt that Maritime Safety Week and Seafarers Awareness Week has put commercial fishing in the spotlight and highlighted the need for us to keep prioritising fishermen’s safety.  

Last week, the MAIB released the 2018 statistics for deaths and accidents on commercial fishing vessels. Tragically, another six fishermen lost their lives: three due to their vessels capsizing; two from falling overboard; and one from a noxious atmosphere in a fish hold. The MAIB highlighted small fishing vessel stability and lifejacket wear stand out as areas where improvements could significantly enhance safety.

This new funding could not come at a more vital time and we hope the spotlight stays on it until we reach our goal of zero preventable deaths at sea.