Improving safety at sea in the fisheries sector – development and implementation of standards

Improving safety at sea in the fisheries sector – development and implementation of standards


In the fishing sector more than 24,000 fatalities occur worldwide every year, which corresponds to 80 lives lost per 100,000 fishermen. Fishers face increasing number of natural disasters. One way of building resilience in fishing communities in developing countries is to improve the safety of the fishing vessels and fishers through better design and construction of the vessels and training and awareness raising of the crews and their families.

FAO has been cooperating with its sister organizations, ILO and IMO, in developing international instruments on safety at sea in the fisheries sector, such as the “Safety Recommendations for Decked Fishing Vessels of Less than 12 metres in Length and Undecked Fishing Vessels”. Such instruments, together with other documents on safety at sea, are useful when upgrading national standards and training and awareness raising on safety at sea.

The improvement of safety at sea is central to the reconstruction efforts. During the last decade, FAO has provided, through its emergency response programme, advice on safety at sea that has resulted in the building of more than 1000 fishing vessels of improved design and training and awareness raising of fishing vessel personnel and their families, the most recent example being the Philippines after the Typhoon Haiyan.

Resilience is built through capacity development using available safety at sea related material as a guide. One example on how this practice has contributed to resilience building is the design of a 4.5 m fibreglass boat that was developed cooperatively by FAO and the Maldives’ Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to replace the traditional wooden Bokkuras lost in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Local people were trained in building their own boats and boatbuilding facilities were established in remote atolls with necessary tools and boatbuilding materials. In total 81 boats were constructed through a project which made it possible for the fishers to go back to fishing.

Through active participation by men and women as well as children in awareness raising activities on safety at sea in the fisheries sector, it has been possible to reduce the risk of accidents and thereby improve the livelihoods of the fishing communities. Best practices in safety at sea are captured in the Fisheries and aquaculture emergency response guidance published this year.

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