Fatality-free year a first for British fishing sector.
Exclusive: No casualties in last 12 months a historic first for UK industry
An industry long regarded as one of the most hazardous in Scotland has gone a full year without a fatality.
The Marine Investigation Branch, which investigates accidents involving UK vessels worldwide and all boats in Britain’s territorial waters, confirmed what is believed to be a historic first.
As of yesterday, there had been no fatalities recorded for the whole UK fishing fleet since September 2 last year.
Industry chiefs hailed it as a “fantastic achievement” for an “inherently dangerous business” following concerted efforts to improve safety at sea.
Simon Potten, head of safety and training at seafood industry body Seafish, said data going back to 1992 suggested the fatality-free year was unprecedented in at least the past 25 years.
Higher casualty numbers in the less safety-conscious times before records began mean the milestone is unlikely to have been achieved before then.
Mr Potten said: “There are encouraging signs that the UK fishing industry is becoming safer.
“Every fishing vessel owner, skipper and crew member should feel justifiably proud of the contribution they have made to achieve this milestone and want to extend it further.”
“Owners and skippers identify and adopt safer working practices”
He added that industrywide messages about the need for safer working practices seemed to be getting through to owners, skippers and crew.
And joint initiatives by fishing organisations, Seafish, the RNLI, the Fishermen’s Mission and others were also helping to raise awareness, he continued.
Recent initiatives include the promotion and distribution of constantwear personal flotation devices to help prevent man overboard fatalities – the biggest single cause of death among fishermen – and substantial funding to support fishermen wanting to update or develop their skills and knowledge.
Seafish chief executive Marcus Coleman said: “This is a fantastic achievement by the fishing industry and goes to show what can be achieved when owners and skippers identify and adopt safer working practices.
“However, there is still much that can be done to make fishing safer and we will continue our efforts to support the industry on this.”
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “A year without fatalities in the industry is obviously a positive outcome, but fishing is an inherently dangerous business and no one will be complacent.”
The nine UK fishermen who died in 2016 were lost in accidents between April and September 2, when Lee Renney was dragged overboard from the potter Pauline Mary off Hartlepool.
We will all be delighted and hugely relieved that the fishing industry has not had a single fatality in the past year.
Experts believe it is the first time that this has been achieved in the past quarter of a century, which gives a clear indication of what an extraordinary step forward this is for the industry. Sea fishing is quite possibly the most dangerous job in British industry, with the threat of sudden death lurking in all directions for the entire journey.
Try to imagine working in that environment and under such threat for 24 hours a day, and often in horrendous sea conditions.
However, the human body and mind can adapt to the most shocking risks and pressures and, perhaps, become complacent or even blase about the danger. Hence the number of fishing accidents that have been attributed in official reports to human error or failure to follow basic safety rules.
Crews have been battered constantly with waves of safety warnings from industry leaders and watchdogs, and it looks like the message is getting through at last. Long may it continue because too many families have suffered untold grief.
SAFETY FIRST: Improvements in safer working practices on fishing vessels have led to the unprecedented record of no fatalities in a year