safety commercial fishing sea-change

UK fishing industry representatives and MPs convening at the APPG on Fisheries event seeking to promote a sea-change in commercial fishing safety

Seeking a sea-change in the safety of commercial fishing: UK fishing industry reps and MPs convene at APPG on Fisheries event

Fostering a culture of safety in the fishing industry has never been more important. A variety of industry-led initiatives are already underway, although more needs to be done to ensure that the industry has appropriate support to improve safety management and achieve a sea-change in fishing safety.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fisheries recently held an event featuring representatives from fishing communities, Parliamentarians, and other stakeholders on how safety management practices and culture change can meaningfully make fishing safer.

On Tuesday 24 October, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fisheries held a free event on an issue critical to the future of the UK fishing industry: safety. Sponsored by The Seafarers’ Charity and attended by 80 people, the event convened representatives from fishing communities, MPs, and other fisheries stakeholders to spotlight ongoing progress in improving safety for fishers – and the culture changes needed to embed this.

The event, chaired by Sheryll Murray MP – a vocal advocate for safe fishing practices – focused on a range of national and international initiatives that aim to improve the safety of all who work in commercial fishing. Building on the APPG on Fisheries’ previous event on fishing safety held in 2020, ‘Fishing Safety at Sea’ welcomed four MPs alongside key industry representatives and 65 online participants.

Four speakers from across the UK and international fishing community presented their work, and shared their insights into how best to improve fishing safety management practices, and the key challenges that remain in doing so.

The Seafarers’ Charity trustee Nigel Blazeby spoke about how the Fishing Safety Management Code has been adopted and used to audit fishing vessels in the UK and internationally, and the need for education, commitment and culture change. He discussed the need for Government policy and regulations to support a thriving and safe fishing industry where risk is managed, regulations are enforced and safety is promoted, for example through linking increased access to fish for safety compliant vessels.

The Fishing Industry’s Safety and Health (FISH) Platform Chair Cor Blonk shared their latest work on establishing a global safety standard for fishing. He spoke of the significant growth of the FISH Platform since its first meeting in 2012 to now include 27 countries over four continents, coming together to progress an international level playing field for fishers’ safety and baseline international standards for personal and vessel safety, rights and wellbeing. He commented on recent successes of the group, noting that the FISH Platform syllabus is now on the general objectives for the IMO STCW-F Basic Safety Training for All Fishing Vessel Personnel, and the inception of the International Fund for Fishing

Safety (IFFS) in partnership with The Seafarers’ Charity and funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation. This new Fund aims to deliver financial support for health and safety projects for the global fishing industry.

Charles Blyth, Risk, Safety and Training Lead at National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) presented on an ambitious partnership between NFFO and The Seafarers’ Charity to improve fishing safety via an extensive education programme. This includes outreach at the harbourside and the FISH SAFE online film series which can be viewed on The Seafarers’ Charity Youtube Channel. He discussed a recent project to understand vessel stability in the light of new regulations coming into force, which have caused many vessels to require modification. The NFFO hopes that results from this work can inform future policy to improve fisher and vessel safety.

Chris Ranford, Chief Executive at the Cornish Fish Producers’ Organisation provided an overview of fishing in Cornwall and the need for economic profitability in fishing as a driver to safer working practices. He commented that there are many factors influencing a fishers’ ability to go to sea, and that the profit from fishing is often limited by external factors such as market stability or stormy weather, impacting on individuals’ ability to invest in additional technology or equipment. He went on to highlight funding that is available to fishers to take action to improve individual and vessel safety via the Fisheries & Seafood Scheme and that Commsave Credit Union has to date provided £1m in loans to match fund these government grants.

Following the presentations, discussion from the audience via a Question and Answer session considered several important topics in relation to fishing safety. This included concerns surrounding the implementation of the new MCA medical requirements for fishers and its applicability to the under-25 meter fleet; working with the fishing industry and regulators to achieve long-term buy-in to safety measures, including financially supporting fishers to implement safety measures; and improving transparency in the fisheries supply chain. A recording of the event and further information on the full discussion can be found on the APPG website.

The Seafarers’ Charity’s Chief Executive, Deborah Layde, said: “The APPG meeting was a fantastic opportunity for us to highlight the value of a funder working in partnership with industry in an informed manner to uplift safety management. We were pleased to be able to sponsor this event and further raise Parliamentarians’ awareness about the importance of effectively supporting safe work at sea.”

The Seafarers’ Charity’s mission is focused on five key ‘strategic outcome’ areas for those who work at sea: enhanced financial resilience; better working lives at sea; improved health and wellbeing for seafarers; increased social justice, and; safer working lives at sea.

APPG Chair Sheryll Murray MP expressed her gratitude to The Seafarers’ Charity for their sponsorship of the event, adding: “This was a timely and essential discussion bringing together the latest news and industry insight on how to avert future tragedies at sea and help ensure a vibrant fishing industry where high safety standards are a matter of course.

Source: Press Release

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