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Fishermen against compulsory wearing of lifejackets

A 25-year old fisherman died when he fell overboard from the Inverness registered trawler Apollo off Orkney on 18 April this year - Photo- MAIB

THE SCOTTISH Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) has decided against backing a call made by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch to make the wearing of lifejackets compulsory for commercial fishermen.

The MAIB said that the four fishermen who lost their lives during three accidents off Orkney, the Western Isles and Pembrokeshire could all have survived had they been wearing personal floating devices (PFDs).

With the loss of nine fishermen at sea so far this year, the MAIB said the rate with which fishermen were losing their lives by drowning was showing no sign of abating.

Safety officer for the SFF, Derek Cardno said an industry-led a scheme to supply PFDs to every fisherman in Scotland had a strong uptake.

He added: “We are not convinced that making the wearing of a PFD a mandatory requirement will make the sole difference that is required.

“We believe it is much better to focus on education and creating a new mind-set among fishermen.

“This includes a recent project working with a behavioural expert, which has produced some very enlightening results.”

But MAIB chief inspector Steve Clinch said the message is not getting through to fishermen “despite a three year campaign that has seen almost every commercial fisherman in the UK receive a free life jacket.

“Evidence from other countries shows that education campaigns alone have little effect on behaviour, but when backed by legislation the change is both significant and sustained,” he said.

The agency has now recommended to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) that legislation to make it compulsory for fishermen to wear lifejackets is introduced as quickly as possible.

“The MAIB rarely recommends the introduction of new legislation to solve safety problems, but the rate that commercial fishermen are losing their lives due to drowning shows no sign of reducing,” he said.

“Indeed, this has been a particularly bad year: the MAIB has investigated the deaths of nine commercial fishermen, and today is publishing three reports covering the deaths of four.

“All four might well have survived had they been wearing a lifejacket when they entered the water.