Fishing Safety

Search & Rescue

Effective approaches to safety at sea everywhere in the world and at all levels rely on three lines of defence, as follows:

Prevention: This first line of defence is the most important line and will save most lives if properly managed. Information and awareness building, and the provision of suitable and affordable equipment and training, assist fishermen and other seafarers in making informed decisions and help them to avoid getting into trouble in the first place.

Survival and self-rescue: The second line of defence is a result of well-managed prevention activities. Someone in distress will make the best use of skills, training, equipment and attitudes necessary to survive and carry out self-rescue when things start to go wrong.

Search and Rescue: SAR is the third and last line of defence, built on systems of alert, search and rescue, which are called on when the first two lines of defence have failed.

Each line of defence is intended to decrease the number of lives lost at sea and is a part of the overall SAR system. Prevention is by far the most important activity, but usually all lines of defence are integrated in the portfolio of tasks of the SAR organization. Ideally, the most effective SAR organization will not have to launch their SAR capacity.

Article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) states: “Every coastal State shall promote the establishment, operation and maintenance of an adequate and effective SAR service regarding safety at sea and, where circumstances so require, by way of mutual regional arrangements cooperate with neighbouring States for this purpose”.

SAR is an essential aspect of safety at sea and it demands the full attention of both those who go to sea and those who administer. Cooperation between fishers should be encouraged and they should receive appropriate government support. Fishers can facilitate SAR operations in many ways, such as:

  • By ensuring that their safety training is up-to-date;
  • By marking their fishing vessels properly to facilitate identification;
  • By having their emergency equipment (e.g. life jackets, life rings, radar reflectors, flares) ready and well-maintained;
  • By carrying proper communication systems (e.g. VHF radios, beacons);
  • By informing relatives/friends/colleagues about their travel plans;
  • By collaborating actively with SAR services in their operations. 

The IMO International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR), (1979) to which the latest amendments entered into force in 2006, provides an essential tool for those developing and operating SAR services.