FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
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Small-scale fishing communities take sea safety onboard

Future fishers of Tokelau learn sea safety
05/12/2019 Tokelau

Small-scale fishing communities in Tokelau actively took part in hands-on training to increase their awareness and knowledge in sea safety. This programme which was led by the Tokelau Departments of Transport and Fisheries to discuss best practices and provide training to Aumaga (men’s groups), women’s groups and youth. The programme is supported by FAO, Maritime New Zealand, World Fisheries Trust and ICON Ltd and was carried out on all three atolls of Fakaofo, Nukunonu and Atafu.

The project team presented a range of safety equipment for a safety grab bag, which should be taken on each fishing trip. They worked with the community to discuss each item and demonstrated the correct use and maintenance of the equipment that could be used in an emergency situation.

The equipment that gained the most attention among participants were the radio locator beacons.  “In a dire emergency, when you are in grave and imminent danger, the emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) can alert emergency responders to your location” said Tony Parr, Pacific Maritime Safety Program. 

Poor engine maintenance is often a cause of many accidents and a serious safety concern. Outboard engine specialist, Mr Andy Cowan provided training on outboard engine diagnostics and maintenance to groups of 40-50 fishers. “There are many relatively simple procedures that fishers can carry out themselves to prevent engines from breaking down. This will not only reduce the risk of breakdown at sea, but also save them a heap of money in the long run as you can add several years of life to an engine just by doing regular maintenance and servicing” he said.

Engaging the next generation of fishers is a key element of building a community culture of sea safety. Island youth need to understand how accidents occur, how risks of accidents can be minimized and what to do if you are in need of rescue. “These kids grow up around fishing and working in small boats. They have heard accounts of accidents at sea from their parents and friends at school but, many of them had never put on a lifejacket and never used a VHF radio before” said FAO consultant, Frank Chopin. The school training sessions were their first chance to learn about and how to operate safety equipment.

Full sets of safety grab bags with context appropriate items will distributed during Phase II of the project and led by Maritime New Zealand. A maintenance and check-out system will also be developed to ensure good care of the life saving items in the safety grab bags.