Monday, 7 December 2020

Fisheries APPG’s latest event promotes fishing safety


On Tuesday 1st December, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries held its final online event of 2020, on the subject of Staying Safe at Sea. The event heard from fishermen, technologists, communications experts and legislators, all of whom are working to make fishing a safer profession.

Fishing can be a high-stakes profession. Vessels capsizing or fishermen falling overboard, although relatively rare events in themselves, can often end in fatality. Because the stakes are so high, maximising fishing safety is crucial. “Fishing safety is an issue very close to my heart,” said Sheryll Murray MP, Chair of the APPG on Fisheries, who chaired the event. “It was fantastic to hear such passionate speakers discussing how we can make the industry as safe as possible, so that fishermen are more aware of the dangers they face.”

“Fishing is the most dangerous industry in the UK,” said Katy Ware, Director of UK Maritime Services, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, who spoke at the event. “The MCA can raise standards through regulation, training, and education within the industry, and we hope that safety awareness will be increased as a result. However, this will not work unless vessel owners ask themselves: can I do this safer, have I done everything I can to protect myself and my crew?”

Direct outreach can bring significant benefits to fishing safety. Denise Fraser, Head of Communications at Seafish, spoke about the work of the Fishing Industry Safety Group’s Home and Dry media campaign. “The fishing industry is having more conversations about safety at sea than ever before and I think we’ll start to see that culture change,” said Denise. “We’re trying to change generations of habits and attitudes so it will take time, but it’s going in the right direction.” Denise said the success of the campaign was due to a new coordinated approach - focusing on the benefits to be gained by maximising fishing safety.

Efforts at the regional level are also having a significant impact. Clive Palfrey, Regional Safety Adviser for Seafood Cornwall Training, spoke about how he interacts directly with fishermen on the quayside to stimulate engagement with safety concerns. His conversations revolve around safety matters such as best practice, compliance with regulations, and the health and wellbeing of crew members - making fishermen aware of the issues and opportunities where they can take action.

Looking for inspiration from other sectors could help bring about benefits for fishing safety. “Fishing safety has been improving, and can be developed further, by utilising techniques used in other industries, such as oil and gas,” said Kenneth Smith, Director of Hook Marine Ltd, who spoke about vessel stability technology. “We must develop the barriers which will stop accidents, including improvements in design, education, training, maintenance, examination and testing of vessels and equipment.”

Technologies that bring about substantial safety benefits do exist, but for reasons such as lack of resources or information, they are not always taken up by fishermen. “The biggest possible positive impact for fishing safety would be the reduction in the gap between safety equipment innovation and access to that equipment for the vessels and crew,” said Sean McCrystal, Senior Marketing Manager for Orolia Maritime, who manufacture Search and Rescue beacons.

Finding the time and resources for training can be an obstacle, especially since the fishing industry needs to make the most of fair weather to go to sea. “There are not enough safety providers or training courses, and those that do exist often fall at a time that fishermen are away at sea,” said John Clark, skipper of the Reliance III. At the event, John spoke about how his personal experience going overboard meant he went ‘above and beyond’ the current legislative requirements to fit his new vessel with safety measures, such as a winch guard and a clip-on safety rail for crew members. “If we are to attract new entrants into the fishing industry, we need to have a better understanding of safety and to provide a safe working environment.”

The event was recorded and is available on the APPG website, along with a summary of the panelists’ answers to questions from attendees. The APPG Secretariat will also publish a policy brief detailing the outputs and key messages for the event in the coming weeks. The APPG on Fisheries’ next event will take place in the New Year. Sign up to their newsletter to be the first to hear about the event launch.