Seafarers UK urges increased focus on fishermen’s safety

September 14, 2018

Seafarers UK has called upon Government to ensure that fishermen’s lives are as well protected as the fish that they catch.

Seafarers UK’s response to DEFRA’s Fisheries White Paper: Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations argues that more must be done to ensure the health, safety and welfare of UK fishermen who risk their lives to put food on our tables.

Fishermen surveyed as part of Seafarers UK’s recent Fishing For a Future research and report publication, reported that accidents at sea were commonplace with many having experienced capsized and sinking vessels as well as falling overboard, while over a third reported injuries received as a result of accidents. Others reported an impact on their health as a result of their working conditions.

The research findings are also supported by latest statistics from the Marine Accident Investigations Branch which reveal that five fishermen died in five separate incidents between the months of September and November 2017. While Seafish Industry Authority have identified 535 serious injuries to fishermen in the last 10 years. The unstable work environment of a vessel at sea, moving equipment parts and incidences of unsafe harbour infrastructure ashore are all factors that contribute to a dangerous work environment.

While Seafarers UK has welcomed (See here) Government’s inclusion of safety in the White Paper, we believe that the Government’s future policy on fisheries management should ensure that fishermen’s lives, and their safety at sea, are valued just as much as the future sustainability of fish stocks.

Other recommendations by Seafarers UK in responding to the Fisheries White Paper include:

  • Maintenance of a UK-wide standard for fishermen’s health, safety and welfare to ensure a commonality of approach in devolved administrations.
  • Establishment of a successor to the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to support small scale low impact inshore fishermen and small fishing ports in making enhancements to vessels, infrastructure and ports; particularly in respect of enhancing safety.
  • Developing a coordinated approach to training new entrants to the fishing industry, helping future generations of fishermen to begin their careers in a safe and sustainable manner.
  • Enabling the views of small scale low impact fishermen to be heard during consultation on legislative changes and fisheries management.
  • Ensuring proposed changes are financially supported and/or proportionately costed according to their impact on a fisherman’s livelihood and his ability to pay.

Seafarers UK’s Director General Barry Bryant said “Every day our fishermen are risking their lives to put food on our table. In the midst of such uncertainty and change we must join forces to guarantee that our fishermen, their families and the often remote communities in which they live and work are in a stronger position to face whatever the future may bring.”

Seafarers UK is committed to supporting the health, welfare and safety of the fishermen of today and the future. We share the ambition of the Fishing Industry Safety Group and many others that fishing fatalities at sea and in port should be reduced to zero.

Seafarers UK’s full response to the Fisheries White Paper can be read here.



Back pain and arthritis are common health conditions experienced by fishermen as a consequence of their work environment. Typical injuries experienced by fishermen surveyed in Fishing For a Future included fractures, partial loss of fingers and fingertips and a lost thumb. While many hand injuries were caused by filleting knife accidents, others were winch or hauler accidents. Jellyfish stings and various crush injuries from equipment such as a clam dredge, pots, net bins, etc. were also reported.

MAIB Annual Report 2017

Fishing stats – 535 fishermen have suffered serious injuries at sea (MAIB report on deaths and injuries to fishing crew 2006-2015). Also see

Seafarers UK ‘Fishing For A Future’ report: