Fishing Safety

Personal Safety

Safety must be given top priority by anyone working on board of a fishing vessel. Proper safety measures save lives, prevent serious accidents and injuries, contribute to occupational health and decent working conditions, protect vessels from damage, protect the aquatic environment and contribute to sustainable and profitable fishing operations.

Vessel owners, captains, skippers, operators and crew of fishing vessels all have safety responsibilities. It is important that everyone working on a fishing vessel is aware of the dangers and risks involved in on-board work at sea and how to manage or reduce them. 

Everyone working on board should be trained in personal survival techniques, including the use of lifejackets, fire prevention and firefighting, emergency procedures, first aid basics, prevention of marine pollution, and prevention of shipboard accidents. The IMO International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel (STCW-F) (1995) sets certification and minimum training requirements for crews of seagoing fishing vessels with the aim to promote the safety of life at sea and the protection of the marine environment, taking into account the unique nature of the fishing industry and the fishing working environment.

There are many measures that can be taken to improve personal safety on board of fishing vessels, such as (where possible) wearing life jackets, helmets, proper footwear and clothing, gloves and sun glasses. Carrying sufficient water and food, lifesaving apparatus, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, safety knife and a thermal protective blanket, is necessary.

Lifesaving apparatus is essential on any fishing vessel. National policies and regulations should be followed for life saving apparatus. In general, it is recommended that each small-scale decked vessel up to 12 metres and undecked vessels should have on board:

  • Lifejackets for every person on board
  • Lifebuoy
  • Distress signals, including at least 2 handheld flares
  • Capsize rope
  • Whistle, mirror and torch.

Small-scale vessels that operate further offshore should also have life rafts, immersion suits (for every person on board a vessel operating in areas where low water or air temperature can be expected), and additional distress signals in the form of parachute rockets. Emergency smoke signals, radar reflectors, and fluorescent emergency marker dye are additional emergency materials that could be useful to carry on-board.

A basic first aid kit is also essential to have on-board.

Before an assignment on-board a fishing vessel, a health test should be taken to make sure that everyone on board is healthy and fit to work. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to specific testing protocols of fishing crew before boarding; these tests have been added to the usual health testing in most industrial fishing fleets. 

Detailed guidance on personal safety at sea can be found here and here.