='"loading" + data:blog.mobileClass'>

Thursday 28 March 2024

NFFO's response to yesterday's 'medical exemption' news announced in Newlyn.


After extensive campaigning by the NFFO, the government has today announced a partial reversal of its policy on medical certification for fishermen. Anyone fishing for 4 weeks or more on a UK under 10m boat between 30th November 2021 and 29th November 2023 is now exempt from the requirement to hold a medical fitness certificate.

This is a welcome outcome, to be sure, and desperately needed. It is a total reversal in the government’s position on the under 10m fleet and will benefit thousands of fishermen. They will no longer have to live with the constant prosect of losing their livelihoods because of medical conditions that are demonstrably having no impact on their safety.

It is, admittedly, rather strange that the government has chosen to announce this as ‘reducing the burden’ on fishermen, since it insisted on creating that burden in the first place, despite our warnings about the consequences of doing so. Nevertheless, it is the right thing to do and will help many people who would otherwise have faced a bleak outlook.

Many, but not all, however.

This may be a deeply necessary move, but it is not sufficient. Deciding who should benefit from this exemption based on the length of their boat does not make sense. Inshore boats over 10m may work in the same places in in the same ways as under 10s. These fishermen are just as likely to be self-employed and their businesses are just as vulnerable to new legislative burdens. Indeed, they already have the additional challenges of e-log and VMS systems to contend with.

Surely, an exemption based on time at sea and distance from port would be more sensible and proportionate than one based on vessel length. This would help where help is needed and balance the risks in a more equitable way.

Even within the under 10m fleet, the story is not over. What happens now for all those who left the industry because they went through the medical certification process and received an outcome that made continued working impossible or impractical for them? How many lives have been upended, in entirely predictable ways, for no good reason and what will the government do for them now?

In short: we have won a battle, but the fight goes on.