Fishing Safety

Governance for Fishing Safety

The governance of fishing operations, including fishing safety, is composed of a wide range of institutions, policy and legal frameworks, as well as management plans. Fishing safety governance has international, regional, national and local dimensions. It includes legally binding rules, such as national policies and legislation or international conventions and agreements, voluntary guidelines and safety codes, and customary arrangements at local level. Fishing safety governance can be focused on short-term safety improvements, as well as long-term strategies, policies and plans. Moreover, fishing safety governance can be embedded in general maritime safety arrangements and measures or be highly specific for certain fishing vessels or fishing operations.

In general, the national level fishing safety governance is provided by an institutional framework consisting of national fisheries, maritime and safety authorities. The measures used to promote safety and chances of survival in case of accidents at sea are often outlined in safety policies and regulations, which include safety gear requirements (e.g. fire extinguishers, personal flotation devices/life jackets, life rafts, emergency locator beacons, VHF radios), safety training requirements, vessel construction standards and vessel and fisher licensing procedures.

At the international level, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and FAO have developed and adopted a range of international instruments that provide a strong legal framework for responsible fisheries, the safety of fishing vessels and fishers, decent working and living conditions.

Some international fisheries instruments that relate to fishing safety are legally binding for those States that have ratified these agreements and conventions and their fishing vessel owners and crew. The instruments can also apply to foreign-flagged fishing vessels within the EEZs and ports of States that have ratified these binding agreements. 

International legally binding instruments relevant to fishing safety include:

  1. United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982
  2. IMO Cape Town Agreement (CTA), 2012
  3. IMO International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F), 1995
  4. ILO Work in Fishing Convention (C188), 2007
  5. FAO Agreement on Port States Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), 2009.

The internationally legal framework relevant to fishing safety is further composed of a range of voluntary instruments, such as the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, various safety codes, safety recommendations, and technical and implementation guidelines.

The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries recognizes (in Article 6, paragraph 6.17)  that “States should ensure that fishing facilities and equipment, as well as all fishing activities, allow for safe, healthy and fair working conditions and meet internationally agreed standards adopted by relevant international organizations”. In addition, Article 8, paragraph 1.5 emphasizes that “States should ensure that health and safety standards are adopted for everyone employed in fishing operations. Such standards should be not less than the minimum requirements of relevant international agreements on conditions of work and service”.

Detailed information about these voluntary instruments can be found here.