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Safety and Health in the Fishing Industry

Report for discussion at the Tripartite Meeting on Safety and Health in the Fishing Industry Geneva, 13-17 December 1999 International Labour Office Geneva Copyright 2000 International Labour Organization (ILO)

Cover photographs: ILO/J. Maillard and Leif Magne Vik To purchase this document, click here

1. An overview of the world fishing industry

The fishing industry (or fishing sector) is extraordinarily diverse. At one extreme are large, multinational joint ventures, utilizing large factory trawlers and numerous other vessels, employing thousands of workers on several oceans. At the other are small, wooden canoes and other boats used by individual fishermen(1) to catch sufficient food for their families and perhaps more to sell in their local communities. Most fishing operations fall somewhere between these extremes. The technology used can be simple and traditional, or it may be highly sophisticated, incorporating the most advanced electronic and other equipment. Some parts of the fishing industry are under social and economic pressures resulting from declines or sudden disappearances in certain stocks of fish (and other living marine resources) due to overfishing and other reasons and to loss of access to fishing grounds (see "International developments" below). This has led to some structural adjustment with serious social implications for groups of fishermen.

The most comprehensive survey of the number of persons engaged in fishing has been carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).(3) The FAO estimates that between 1970 and 1990, the number of people engaged in fishing and fish farming doubled from roughly 13 million to 28.5 million. Of the 28.5 million, roughly 15 million fishermen (or "fishers") are employed aboard decked or undecked fishing vessels operating in the

marine capture fisheries, of which more than 90 per cent are working on vessels less than 24 metres in length. This report focuses on these 15 million fishermen.

Food, community and economy

Fish, including shellfish, are a critical food resource. In 1996, the amount of fish available for human consumption was almost 16 kg per person.(4) For the period 1987-89, fish consumption as a percentage of total animal protein consumption was: North America 6.6 per cent, Western Europe 9.7 per cent, Africa 21.1 per cent, Latin America and the Caribbean 8.2 per cent, Middle East 7.8 per cent, Far East 27.8 per cent, Pacific Basin 21.7 per cent.(5) Without fishing, some communities and whole regions would find it difficult, if not impossible, to support the local population, at least without substantial government assistance. Fishing is not simply a job but is a way of life with its own traditions and values. The FAO estimates that in 1996 the value of fish and fishery exports was US$52.5 billion. For developing countries, there was a net trade surplus in fish and fishery products of US$16.6 billion in 1996.(6) In some countries, fishing is a major part of the national economy. In Iceland it represents nearly 20 per cent of GDP; in Senegal it has become increasingly important as production increased from 50,000 tonnes in 1965 to 436,000 tonnes in 1996, an average increase of 7.5 per cent per year.(7) The fishing industry is global. The increased popularity of fish and other seafood in wealthier countries, where consumers can pay a higher price, coupled with improvements in preserving, processing and transporting the catch, has also led to many locally caught fish from the developing world to end up on tables in the developed world. In 1995, developed countries accounted for 85 per cent of total fish imports (by value).(8)

Production (the catch)

In 1996, production from world capture fisheries(9) reached 87.1 million tonnes (compared with 17 million tonnes in 1950, 34.9 million tonnes in 1961 and 68.3 million tonnes in 1983). Growth has since slowed. In 1996, the 12 top producing countries (in decreasing order) were: China, Peru, Chile, Japan, United States, Russian Federation, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Norway, Republic of Korea and Iceland. The first eight of these countries alone accounted for half of the marine catch, which in turn was 90 per cent of all production by marine capture fisheries (with the remaining 10 per cent coming from inland fisheries).(10) The FAO has estimated that about 44 per cent of major fish stocks are fully exploited and about 16 per cent are overfished. Another 6 per cent are considered depleted and 3 per cent are recovering from excessive fishing pressure.(11) Earlier projections of world fishery production in 2010 ranged between 107 and 144 million tonnes, with most of the increase expected to come from aquaculture. The contribution from capture fisheries will depend on some further development and on the effectiveness of fisheries management. Improved management of currently overfished stocks could provide an increase of between 5 and 10 million tonnes, whereas continued overfishing could lead to a decline in production.(12)

Future employment in the marine fishing sector may therefore be affected by the overall availability of fish, as well as how the availability of those fish is divided among the various groups of fishermen (e.g. artisanal and small-scale versus large trawlers; developing versus developed world).

World fishing fleet

According to the FAO,(13) the total world tonnage of fishing vessels was 27,990,000 gross registered tonnage (grt) (1,258,200 vessels) in 1995, up from 12,368,000 grt (594,000 vessels) in 1970, 17,577,000 grt (823,100 vessels) in 1980, 19,973,000 grt (983,400 vessels) in 1985 and 22,810,000 grt (1,201,300 vessels) in 1990. The 30 top countries and areas in 1995, in decreasing order by grt, were: Russian Federation; China; Japan; United States; India; Republic of Korea; Taiwan, China; Ukraine; Democratic Republic of Korea; Spain; Canada; Indonesia; Mexico; Thailand; Panama; Norway; Italy; United Kingdom; Malaysia; Argentina; Morocco; Peru; Pakistan; Poland; Netherlands; France; Chile; Philippines; Cuba; and Lithuania. The figure below, based on FAO data, gives the distribution of decked fishing vessels by size and clearly shows that the vast majority of the world's fishing vessels are under 25 grt.

In 1995, 46.1 per cent of the world fishing fleet(14) was over 20 years old. This age profile is increasing(15) -- Lloyd's Fleet Statistics for 1996 lists the average age of the fish catching vessels at 20 years old.(16) In 1995 and 1996 there was a sharp decrease in the number of new vessels. However, 1997 data showed an increase in construction. Fifteen per cent of vessels constructed between 1991 and 1995 were registered in "open registers" (Honduras, Liberia, Cyprus and Panama).(17) The FAO has estimated that 5 per cent of fishing vessels in the 100150 grt range are in open registers, increasing to 14 per cent of fishing vessels over 4,000 grt.(18)

International developments

The world's fisheries have come under increasing control. International Conventions, Agreements, Codes and activities have had, and are having, a major impact on where and how fishing takes place. The following are examples.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

In the 1960s and 1970s, certain countries extended their exclusive economic zones to the 200 mile limit (e.g. Iceland extended its fishing limits to four miles in 1952, 12 in 1958, 50 in 1972 and then to 200 in 1975).(19) The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which was opened for signature in 1982, established a new regime governing the exclusive economic zones (EEZs). This gives coastal States the authority to manage fisheries (an estimated 90 per cent of the fish stocks) within this new jurisdiction. Article 62, "Utilization of living resources", paragraph 4, provides that: "Nationals of other States fishing in the exclusive economic zone shall comply with the conservation measures and with the other terms and conditions established in the laws and regulations of the coastal State." This Article lists subject areas to which coastal state laws and regulations may relate (e.g. licensing of fishermen, regulation of fishing seasons, etc.). Though it does not specifically include safety or living and working conditions, the list is not exhaustive. UNCLOS entered into force on 16 November 1994. While some distant-water fleets continue to maintain access through quotas on catches and through joint ventures with coastal state enterprises, others have been forced from their former fishing grounds. Some vessels have been deployed elsewhere, particularly in the EEZs of developing countries, while others have been sold to coastal States or scrapped. As fishing vessels have a life cycle of up to 30 years, it may take quite a few years for the industry to adjust to these new circumstances. There is a need for retraining and alternative employment opportunities for displaced fishermen.

Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of UNCLOS Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks
The Agreement, adopted at the sixth session of the United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks held in 1995, aims to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks through effective implementation of the relevant provisions of UNCLOS. It spells out the duties of flag States to ensure that fishing vessels flying their flags comply with its provisions. Under certain conditions and restrictions, a fishing vessel may be boarded and inspected on the high seas for compliance with conservation and management measures for straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. The Agreement also gives non-governmental organizations access to meetings of subregional and regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements.

FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which is voluntary, was adopted by an FAO Conference held in 1995. The Code provides principles and standards applicable to the

conservation, management and development of all fisheries, and also covers the capture, processing and trade of fish and fishery products, fishing operations, aquaculture, fisheries research and the integration of fisheries into coastal area management. It reflects many of the provisions of UNCLOS and the Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of UNCLOS Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (see above). It also includes references to certain ILO standards (e.g. concerning repatriation of fishermen). The Code encourages port States to check fishing vessels for compliance with subregional, regional or global conservation and management measures or with internationally agreed minimum standards for the prevention of pollution and for safety, health and conditions of work on board fishing vessels. Further impetus was given to the Code when the FAO Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries (Rome, March 1999) adopted the Rome Declaration on the Implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.(20)

OECD work on the economic impact of the transition to responsible fisheries

The Committee for Fisheries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is carrying out a substantial programme of work entitled "The economic impact of the transition to responsible fisheries". This involves four related studies: an evaluation of the potential gains and costs involved in the transition to responsible fisheries; the impact on fisheries resource sustainability of government financial transfers; the implications of postharvesting policies and practices on responsible fishing; and the social implications of responsible fisheries. The OECD is seeking to assess the possible social and employment implications of moving to responsible fisheries and to identify policy options to deal with the effects of these implications on its members and to overcome, or at least ease, the associated adjustment problems. The work is scheduled for completion in late 1999.(21)

Developments in fisheries management

There are growing efforts to manage fisheries in such a way as to preserve fish stocks and protect certain marine life and, in some cases, to distribute the catch among different groups of fishermen. Such efforts have included restricting fishing seasons, limiting the "total allowable catch" and setting individual quotas. While fisheries management issues fall at the international level within the mandate of the FAO, certain aspects may be of concern to the ILO, such as the degree to which fishermen, including vessel owners and representatives of fishermen's organizations, have a voice in the management process, the distribution of access to fisheries, and the impact on employment, local economies and whole fishing communities. Chapter 2 includes a discussion of the possible relationship between fisheries management and fisherman safety.

Changes in technology and operations(22)

The last 50 years have seen rapid and major changes in the development of the fishing industry. The improvement and modernization of boats and fishing equipment have increased fishing productivity and efficiency and affected the working conditions and lives of fishermen. Technical developments have also taken place in fish handling and processing and the location of processing. Many vessels process the catch on board and are equipped with effective fish-finding

equipment and fishing gear, as well as sophisticated navigational aids. Changes in technology have not only affected fishermen on large vessels. Small-scale fishermen, especially in developed countries, have experienced technical improvements in boat design, the fitting of engines in boats, aids to navigation, fishing gear, fishing methods and preserving the catch.(23) Communications, including safety communications, have improved considerably. Advances in satellite communications have influenced not only fishing safety but also other communications and operations. Satellite systems are also being used to monitor some fishing operations. Precise navigation has been made much easier by satellite navigation using the Global Positioning System (GPS). With GPS, it is possible to establish a vessel's exact position, set tracks and locate fishing equipment with relatively inexpensive receivers. Sonar and echo sounder technology have enhanced fishermen's ability not only to find fish but to distinguish between species. On trawlers, headlines on fishing gear can also be fitted with sounders and temperature sensors which permit fishermen to aim the trawl and to ensure efficient entry of fish into the net. Sophisticated monitors on the bridge can provide a clear presentation of what is happening below. Assistance can be obtained by communicating with fishing analysts ashore who can provide information using satellites and other sources and predict where the species sought may be found. For most of history, fishermen have pulled their gear and fish aboard by hand (many still do), a task requiring strength and endurance. Steam, then electricity and now primarily hydraulics, have dramatically increased the power available on deck. The invention of the power block, for example, significantly eased the labour of many fishermen. At-sea processing has allowed for large catches, leading to massive fishing gear which in turn requires more powerful deck equipment. However, heavier and more powerful equipment may lead to more serious accidents. There is increased pressure to fish in a manner which avoids incidental by-catch or harm to certain forms of marine life. Special gear (e.g. turtle excluder devices) and restrictions on fishing operations (e.g. no fishing close to seal rookeries) are now familiar fishing concerns. Not long ago, unwanted species, whether simply those that could not be profitably processed, stored and marketed or those with little or no market value, were often discarded at sea, particularly in industrialized fishing. This is no longer an accepted practice. The development of factory trawlers, beginning in the 1950s, led to the catch being frozen on board and to the increased automation of fish processing. Initially, such ships required a substantial number of dedicated fish-processing workers; improvements in automation have since led to a reduction in manual labour associated with processing and stowing the catch. In some cases, however, work pressure has increased. Consumers are demanding a higher quality product, i.e. fish that are fresh (or which have been quickly frozen) and have suffered little or no damage during catching, processing and storage. Some countries require that seafood products can be traced along the chain of sales and transportation, all the way to the original harvesting area, and even to the fishermen responsible for the first handling. The necessity of providing a quality product has had a major impact on fishing operations. It has become increasingly important to ensure that gear is not left too long in

the water and that fish are not left too long before being cleaned and stored. This can affect the rhythm of work. Icing and freezing at a rapid pace can also influence working conditions and in particular safety (see Chapter 2).

The employer-worker relationship(24)

While there has been some success in shifting fishermen to stable and formal contractual arrangements approaching those of workers ashore, the majority still belong to the "informal" sector. This includes self-employed fishermen, the employees of very small fishing enterprises employing one or two fishermen on either a regular or casual basis, and fishermen who have no formal employment relationship with their employer. Many fishermen, as noted earlier in this chapter, are engaged only partly in fishing and derive the rest of their income from agricultural or other occupations. In the coastal zones of developing countries, although there are substantial industrialized fishing activities, most fishermen are in the artisanal small-scale sector. A fisherman may be the owner or a member of the same household as the owner, may have some other long-term traditional arrangement with the owner, or may be a casual labourer without any particularly strong links to the owner. In developed countries, many fishermen are also employed in the small-scale fishing sector (see description later in this chapter) and may work under informal or casual employment arrangements. In countries where employer-worker relationships are normally recognized by legislation, fishermen may be excluded from such provisions because of the sharing arrangements peculiar to the fishing industry.(25) This exclusion can lead to difficulties in obtaining unemployment insurance, health care and other benefits enjoyed by many shoreside workers. Oral contracts may make it difficult to seek redress for pay-related problems. In large-scale fishing enterprises, there are generally more formal employment relationships. Although most fishermen are usually at least partly paid according to the share system, they generally have the benefit of being unionized and covered by collective agreements. The agreements themselves often reflect traditions which have their origins in artisanal fisheries.

The share system(26)

The traditional system of remuneration in the fishing industry is the sharing of the catch. Crew and owner must together cover certain operating expenses which are deducted from the gross proceeds obtained from the sale of the catch. The net proceeds are then divided among the boat owner and the members of the crew according to an agreed formula. The risk is shared by the fishing vessel owners and the members of the crew. The earnings incentive encourages the crew to improve productivity. In order to maximize their share of the proceeds, fishermen tend to operate with as few crew members as possible. Variations in the catch make it difficult to estimate an optimum number of crew for a vessel. This can lead to periods when the crew is underemployed and others when the crew works excessive hours. Sometimes, fishermen are paid based on a share of the catch yet are also guaranteed a minimum wage. The fishermen's income continues to depend on the size of the catch and the proceeds

from its sale, but the sharing is usually done before, rather than after, the deduction of operating costs. In some operations, fishermen receive both a regular salary and a share of the catch. The members of the crew receive a fixed salary which is stipulated in the charter party, in the contract of engagement or in the relevant legislation or collective agreement. They also receive a share of the catch calculated on the basis of the gross proceeds from its sale.

Living conditions at sea

Accommodation on fishing vessels covers the full range of conditions, from staterooms, messrooms and recreational spaces that are modern, well-equipped and comfortable to those that are extremely cramped and unhealthy. Most owners have realized that decent conditions are needed to attract, sustain and retain a good crew (see box 1.1).

Box 1.1 An easier life for the crew*

"We must invest in the facilities for the crew to make life easier for them and to keep them aboard." More light and space for the crew has been created by raising the mess area to provide bigger windows. In addition, all cabins have a shower, toilet, stereo system and are equipped for TV. A fridge and microwave are sited in the messroom, despite the close proximity to the galley, and crewmen can wash off their dining plates and put them in a dishwasher in the messroom. A private crew's telephone room is provided and the cabins are arranged with five on trawl deck level and seven below. The captain has his own shower room, bedroom and day room/office. Separate washing and drying machines are fitted to deal with personal and working clothes, while there are boot warmers and clothes hangers in a room which has direct access to both the processing deck and the trawl deck. * Description of accommodation facilities on a Spanish-built wet fish stern trawler built for Norwegian owners -- Fishing News International (London), July 1998. However,

poor conditions prevail on many fishing vessels (see box 1.2). Accommodation obviously also varies in accordance with the economic situation and the length of time the vessel is expected to remain at sea.

Box 1.2 Not such an easy life for some*

"The fishermen are packed in boats with the complicity of local agents, in inhuman conditions, despite

the regulatory measures provided by the state and the actions undertaken by our union during seminars designed to sensitize and prick consciences. The fishermen work in these conditions for 70 days without rest and from 6:00 to 19:00 with only 2 rest periods a day. The tents [on the deck of large fishing vessels] fixed up for them [to] sleep in (on boxes or wood as matresses are a luxury) encourage malformations as it is impossible to stand, sit properly, or sleep in the position of one's choice ..." * Description of conditions on certain European and Asian distant-water vessels off West Africa -Reported by the Collectif national des pcheurs artisanaux du Sngal.

Child labour and fishing

Many children are working in the fishing industry, either as members of a fishing family or working for others. The following are examples. In southern Thailand, a significant portion of the fishing industry has been composed of children working as fish sorters, factory workers and fishing vessel crew. Their duties include placing and hauling fishing nets, with other duties sometimes including repairing nets, cooking, steering, sorting fish and carrying fish baskets ashore. Some of the vessels concerned stay within Thai waters, others fish in Vietnamese, Malaysian or Indonesian waters and may be at sea for several months.(27) In the Philippines, children have also been employed in the muro-ami fishing industry. Muro-ami fishing involves a large number of swimmers and divers who move a bag net with two detachable wings in order to catch reef fish -- notoriously dangerous work.(28) In Indonesia, children have worked in the fishing industry in Gempol Sewu on the coast of Kabupaten Kendal in Central Java. This has included handling nets, diving to drive away unwanted fish, repairing nets, draining boats and preparing meals. Children are also employed in deep-sea pearl diving in the Aru Islands of South East Maluku.(29) Child labour in the fishing sector is sometimes found in developed countries. In 1998, a lobsterman in the United States was fined over US$50,000 for violating child labour laws after employing children as young as 10 years old to catch lobsters.(30) Through its International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, the ILO works to address this situation. In March 1999, for example, a workshop was held in Indonesia to address child labour in fishing in Jermal. This involved the Indonesian Government, the provincial government of North Sumatra, non-governmental organizations and others seeking to provide accommodation, formal education, training, health care, employment opportunities, and help in drafting appropriate laws and regulations, to assist not only the children but also their parents. (31) As described in Chapter 6, the ILO recently adopted a Convention concerning the "worst forms of child labour", which includes work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.(32)

Small-scale and artisanal fisherfolk(33)

Small-scale and artisanal fishermen are overlapping terms that cover a very wide range of fish producers who use an equally wide range of fishing technology.(34) There is a great difference between small-scale fishermen in industrial countries with a relatively high level of income and standard of living and artisanal fishermen in developing countries. The former are small-scale producers who often use the most advanced fishing technology and electronics on board small, but quite advanced, fishing craft. The mostly poor fisherfolk at the other end of this range make their living by operating low-investment boats and fishing equipment. Most live in remote, coastal communities where living standards and quality of life keep them at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid. Half of the world's seafood is caught or otherwise collected by small-scale fishermen operating millions of fishing craft. For example, Portugal alone has over 10,000 fishing boats of less than 10 metres length and there are over 40,000 small-scale fishermen among the Pacific islands.

Women and fishing

Sea fishing has, at least in many countries, traditionally been carried out by men,(35) while women have been much more active in fish processing and marketing. The advent of factory trawlers led to a greater number of women on vessels at sea, with the majority of workers on the processing lines of some vessels being women. However, women are also becoming more active in fish catching. Some countries, such as Norway, have made determined efforts not simply to eliminate discrimination but to actively recruit women. Yet, in many places in the world old stereotypes and even superstitions remain.(36) Women have also become more politically active in fishing issues at the local, regional and national level,(37) whether as fishermen or shoreworkers or as wifes or mothers of fishermen. Wives and mothers can maintain a continuing presence in shoreside fisheries management and safety forums while their husbands or sons are on the water.(38) A workshop on gender perspectives in fisheries, held in Senegal in 1996, discussed various strategies and organizational forms that have been adopted by women fishworkers to address their concerns in different countries. In India, for example, women fishworkers are seeking a place within mainstream fishworker organizations to address issues of concern to them. In Canada, the wives of fishermen organize as autonomous groups, join fishworker organizations and get together at the community level to protect the interests of coastal communities. In other Northern countries, women are working to protect smaller operators as well as to improve conditions on board distant-water vessels. In some Southern countries, women fishworkers are struggling to retain their place within the fisheries sector, in the face of globalization and trade liberalization.(39)

Cases of abuse and conflic

Many fishermen, particularly from Asia, are employed on distant-water fishing vessels registered in countries other than their own, at times in "open" registers. Through many are treated well and make a far better income than they might earn at home, a significant number suffer very poor even abusive - conditions. Such fishermen experience long, monotonous hours, oppresive and unsafe work, culture shock, abuses of human rights, income inequalities and a general sense of

helplessness. Many Filipino fishermen working on such vessels must sign a second contract with conditions velow approved Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) contract they ssigned before they left home - when joining the vessel. They may find that insurance is limited to strictly defined illness or injuries that occur during fishing operations, that large deductions are taken from their wages to cover expenses alleged to have been incurred aboard the fishing or processing vessel, and that the alien culture makes it difficult to organize into trade unions or to purchase other means of improving conditions. Some have tried to unionize only to suffer employment discrimination.(40) The Seamen's/Fishermen's Service Center of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, China, which has a long history of working with such fishermen, cites such problems as lack of documentation, language barriers, lack of medical care, safety problems (including lack of fishing vessel inspections) and lack of means to communicate with medical or legal aid ashore.(41)
Box 1.3 Asking for help

On 19 January 1999, a Filipino fisherman brought two other Filipino fishermen [names withheld] to our centre seeking help. The two fishermen are working in a fishing boat [name withheld]. The two fishermen began work on this ship on 16 November 1998. Their problems are: (a) they didn't get enough food on the boat; (b) they worked in the frozen storage and were never provided with any gloves or shoes to protect their hands and feet, resulting in serious injuries to their hands and legs; (c) because of language problems between them and the Captain, they were often beaten and could not tolerate it any longer. SFSC helped contact their agent in [name of port withheld] and requested him to solve their problem by changing their ship or meeting with the Captain to tell him to be fair to these fishermen in their life and work on the boat, to supply them with gloves while working in the storage, etc. Source: Jan. 1999 Newsletter of the Seamen's/Fishermen's Service Center, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, China.

Some Pacific Island fishermen have also experienced similar problems while working on board foreign flag vessels. They complain of excessively long hours, poor treatment of injuries -- even in the case of seriously injured workers, lack of proper working clothes, non-respect of contracts agreed in advance and even beatings. Some have taken their grievances to court or have formed local fishermen's associations to fight the situation. With limited opportunities at home, many islanders continue to seek this employment and to return to jobs at sea.(42) Fishermen have been abandoned in foreign ports following the bankruptcy of their employers, the seizure of vessels following illegal fishing (or alleged illegal fishing) or in connection with political or military disputes. Some fishermen who may have no control over where the vessel operates find themselves in jail for extended periods, receiving no support from owners.(43) Fishermen from former Eastern bloc countries have been abandoned (or remained unpaid for long periods) when their once government-owned fleets were privatized and lost access to distant fishing grounds. And in some areas there is piracy.

An International Seminar-Workshop on the conditions of fishworkers on distant-water vessels, held in Manila in 1991, made a number of recommendations to improve conditions, including improving recruitment practices; implementation by national governments of international laws, including ILO and IMO standards; organizing fishworkers; identifying social and legal assistance services; collecting basic information on fishworkers' problems and conditions; improving training; and improving the communication/education of fishworkers' groups. The participants also agreed that fishworkers who were organized in trade unions were generally better treated than their counterparts.(44) The Office has not obtained information on whether coastal States are seeking to control the living and working conditions of fishermen working on distant-water fishing vessels authorized to fish in the coastal State's exclusive economic zones.(45) Information on any links, or proposed links, between the authorization to fish in coastal waters and the required standards governing the conditions of the crew on fishing vessels granted such authorizations would be very useful, as this may reveal means of improving conditions of a sadly unprotected group of workers.

Social dialogue in the fishing industry

Many countries have a long history of strong, active fishermen's trade unions and other organizations. The globalization of the fishing industry has led to a subsequent strengthening of the voice of fishermen at the regional and international levels. For example, the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has strengthened and expanded its activities in the fishing sector and, among other things, has sought to address long-standing divisions among certain groups of fishermen. It has also tried to establish closer links with other non-governmental organizations of fishermen. In 1998, the ITF adopted a policy statement calling for cooperation between small-scale or artisanal fishermen and industrial fishermen. The ITF has also been active at the United Nations, ILO, FAO, IMO and OECD, giving its fishermen's trade union affiliates an international voice in international fishing debates. By way of example, the ITF has long supported the concept of sustainable or responsible fisheries and actively participated in the work of the FAO in the adoption of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. It is also monitoring the restructuring of the world's fishing fleet to ensure that safety and sustainable development issues are taken into account, as well as measures aimed at mitigating the resulting negative socio-economic consequences. The ITF has held a number of regional seminars on these and other issues. In 1991, the ILO supported the initiative of a number of trade unions and fisherfolk organizations in the Philippines to hold a conference-workshop on trade unions and organizations of fisherfolks, the main objective of which was to clarify the ways by which trade unions and other forms of fisherfolks' organizations could actively intervene in the promotion of the welfare of fisherfolks and the strengthening of their organizations.(46) In 1999, the United Federation of Labour, Sri Lanka, with some support from the ILO, undertook a study of labour conditions and working practices in Sri Lanka's deep-sea fisheries sector with the objective of putting in place legislation that provides for safe working conditions, labour rights and social security for deepsea fishworkers and their families.(47)

National owners' organizations have played an important role in safety and other matters in their respective countries. Europche has been the voice of fishing vessel owners on labour and other issues before the European Commission (see Chapter 4). The International Coalition of Fisheries Associations has represented fishing vessel owners at the United Nations, FAO and other forums. The Tripartite Meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss whether and how the ILO could play a more active role in encouraging the establishment or strengthening of national organizations of fishing vessel owners and thus enhance social dialogue in the fishing sector. 1. The term "fisherman" is gender neutral, and is the term used in ILO instruments. 2. This information is taken primarily from the FAO Fisheries Department Internet site from a document entitled "Number of fishers doubled since 1970" at c929.htm. The FAO warns potential users of data shortcomings which may have resulted from gaps or estimates by national statistical offices and from the incomparability of data due to the utilization of different concepts and methods in the assessment of the number of persons engaged in fishing and aquaculture. However, this still represents the best available information on global employment in the fishing sector. 3. The ILO publishes a number of relevant series on workers in its Yearbook of Labour Statistics. These relate to total employment (paid employment plus self-employment) and persons in paid employment. All these series are classified according to economic activity, using either the International Standard Industrial Classification of all Economic Activities (ISIC) Revision 2 or ISIC Revision 3. Where ISIC Rev.3 is used, separate data may be available for fishing; otherwise, fishing is incorporated in Major Division 1 of ISIC Rev.2 along with agriculture, hunting and forestry. The data on total employment are also classified by occupation, according to International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) -- either the 1968 revision (ISCO-68) or the 1988 revision (ISCO-88), at the major group level. Consequently, fishermen are not identified separately. 4. FAO: The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 1998 (Rome, 1999). 5. Alain le Sann: A livelihood from fishing: Globalization and sustainable fisheries policies (London, Intermediate Technology Publications, 1998). 6. FAO: The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 1998, op. cit. 7. See 8. FAO: The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 1996 (Rome, 1997). 9. That is, excluding aquaculture.

10. FAO: The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 1998, op. cit. 11. ibid. 12. 13. FAO: Bulletin of Fishery Statistics, No. 35 (Rome, 1998). 14. Of vessels 24 metres and over and 100 grt and over. 15. J. Fitzpatrick and C. Newton: Assessment of the world's fishing fleet 1991-1997, at 16. Lloyd's Register of Shipping World Fleet Statistics, 1996 (London, 1997). 17. Fitzpatrick and Newton, op. cit. 18. FAO: Open registers, doc. MSC 71/10/1, submitted by the FAO to the 71st Session of the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (Mar. 1999). 19. M. Wigan: The last of the hunter gatherers (Shrewsbury, United Kingdom, 1998). 20. For the text of the Declaration, see dece.htm. 21. For further information on how to obtain these reports, see 22. Based on World Fishing: Fisherman's manual (Kent, Nexus Media Ltd., 1997). 23. ILO: Fishermen's conditions of work and life (Geneva, doc. CFI/4/1988/1). 24. Based, with updates, on ILO: Fishermen's conditions of work and life, op. cit. 25. See also discussion of ILO Convention No. 155 in Ch. 6. 26. Based, with updates, on ILO: Fishermen's conditions of work and life, op. cit. 27. K. Nitiruangjaras et al.: A research on child labour in the fishery industry and other continued industries in Pattani (Thailand, 1998). 28. V. Rialp: Children and hazardous work in the Philippines (Geneva, ILO, 1993). 29. S.R. Pardoen: Children in hazardous work in the informal sector in Indonesia (Jakarta, ILO/Atma Jaya Research Centre, 1996).

30. Reported in the CRS daily summary, 25 Sep. 1998 at summaries_lfv.html. 31. Communication from the ILO Office in Jakarta. 32. The ILO's Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), and Minimum Age (Fishermen) Convention, 1959 (No. 112), are discussed in Chs. 5 and 6. 33. Based on M. Ben-Yami: Risks and dangers in small-scale fisheries: An overview, an unpublished paper prepared for the Office in view of this report. The Office may publish the report at a later date as a sectoral working paper. 34. In this report small-scale fisheries are defined in two ways: (1) by socio-economic criteria, and (2) by technical ones. According to socio-economic criteria, small-scale fishermen are people of both genders who usually operate their own fishing craft and equipment, go to sea either alone or accompanied by a few crew members who are preferably their own friends or relatives. Technical criteria used in this report define small-scale fisheries as a sector in which fishermen fish and collect aquatic organisms from beaches and from under ice, either by swimming, diving or wading, or using small-scale fishing craft. Small-scale fishing craft are defined, for industrial countries, as boats of less than 10-12 m length overall, and less than 12-15 MT displacement, powered by engines not exceeding 200-300 hp (150-225 kW). For developed countries, this definition also covers canoes, pirogues and open-deck dhows up to 16 m length overall, powered by engines not exceeding 200 hp (150 kW). Ben-Yami, op. cit. 35. Although there are notable examples of fisheries, particularly inland fishing in many African countries, where women constitute the majority of fishermen or "fishers". 36. For a discussion of gender and fishing, see E. Munk-Madsen: "Psychosocial characteristics of the workforce at sea", in ILO: Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety (Geneva, 4th edition, 1998), Vol. 3, Ch. 66: "Fishing". 37. See the discussion of the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Advisory Committee (CFIVAC) under "United States" in Annex 1. 38. The Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association, in Massachussets, United States, for example, participates not only in local forums but is also represented on the national advisory committee concerned with fishing safety. 39. This workshop, organized with the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF), was reported in "Different voices, similar concerns", in Samudra Report (Madras, ICSF), No. 15, Aug. 1996. 40. For a more detailed discussion of these issues see J. Vacher: "Floating sweatshops: Migrant workers on distant-water fishing vessels", in FAO: Responsible fisheries, Development Education Exchange Papers (DEEP) (Rome), Oct. 1995.

41. Personal correspondence forwarded by Jacques Harel, General Secretary, International Christian Maritime Assocation, Mar. 1999. 42. "The fishermen's story", in Asia Now, investigative report (four-part series, 1998-99). 43. This situation has been described in considerable detail in H. Mahadevan et al.: Fishworkers as prisoners of war (New Delhi, South Asian Labour Forum, May 1998). 44. Report on the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers' Seminar-Workshop on the conditions of fishworkers on distant-water vessels (ICSF, Belgium, 1991). 45. It is, however, aware that the Falkland Islands Legislative Council, inter alia, "unanimously endorsed a motion on 25 March to take action to deny fishing licences to vessels, companies and masters shown to be involved in human rights abuses", as reported in Fishing News International (London), June 1998. 46. ILO: Trade unions and organizations of fisherfolks (1992). 47. Letter to the ILO from the United Federation of Labour, 23 July 1998.

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Safety and Health in the Fishing Industry

Report for discussion at the Tripartite Meeting on Safety and Health in the Fishing Industry Geneva, 13-17 December 1999 International Labour Office Geneva Copyright 2000 International Labour Organization (ILO)

Cover photographs: ILO/J. Maillard and Leif Magne Vik To purchase this document, click here

2. Safety and health issues in the fishing industry

This chapter will examine safety and health issues in the fishing industry. First there is a discussion of many of the risks and the ways of categorizing fatalities and injuries. This is followed by a review of some of the causes, including underlying causes, of accidents, injuries and diseases, and how they may be analysed so as to devise prevention strategies. The role of insurance and the costs of accidents are also discussed. The statistics available should be used cautiously. The approaches to collecting information on accidents and injuries in fishing seem to vary considerably. Although in many countries it appears that accidents and injuries are under-reported, the statistics should help identify some of the main problem areas. A discussion of the ILO's experience in preparing international statistics on occupational safety and health is included in Chapter 5.

Special characteristics of the working environment in the fishing industry

Fishing takes place in the often hostile marine environment. Fishing vessels, except in very calm weather, are constantly in motion. When the weather is particularly rough, the motion may be

extreme and unpredictable. On deck, fishermen are exposed to the weather and the sea, fishing gear and other equipment and usually to the catch itself. On or below deck they may face dangers associated with processing and, even when not working, they are still subject to vessel motion. There is always the possibility of fire, sinking and other traditional maritime dangers. Fog carries the risk of collision or grounding. Marine fishing operations can take place anywhere from very close to shore in protected bays to far out at sea. Though great strides have been made in many countries to provide search and rescue and medical evacuation services to fishing vessels (such as medical evacuation by helicopter), it may take quite a while for aid to reach vessels or persons in distress. A sick or injured fisherman must depend on receiving immediate medical care from other members of the crew; if fishing alone, the only help available must come from himself or from nearby fishing vessels, if at all. Fishermen on artisanal craft may not have a radio to call for help. As touched upon in Chapter 1, certain fishermen also face risks of physical abuse on board. Some face physical risks due to military or resource-related conflicts or piracy. Fishermen depend on their vessels for their survival. If the vessel suffers a casualty, the fishermen have a good chance of losing their lives (in some areas families live on board and thus share the risks). The design, construction, maintenance and operation of the vessel all directly affect safety and health. Living and working space on board fishing vessels can be quite limited. Vessels usually carry a substantial amount of equipment necessary to store and (frequently) process fish. This does not leave much living and working space, and fishermen must therefore usually work very close to powerful and potentially dangerous machinery. If fishing gear breaks free, there may be nowhere to get away from it. Cramped crew accommodation can result in fishermen living very close to each other, and this may increase stress as well as facilitate the passage of contagious diseases. Risks vary with each type of fishing operation, area of operation, vessel size, equipment carried and the job of each fisherman. On larger vessels, the risk of being killed or injured through crushing by heavy equipment may be relatively high. On small and artisanal vessels, the risk of capsizing from a snagged trawl, sinking while pulling in a large catch and even being attacked by dangerous marine life can be considerable. In places where fishing vessels are unable to operate from ports or shelters, crossing surf may be very dangerous. Bad weather, loss of power and unsuitable vessels are additional risks, perhaps greater for small vessels than larger ones. Smaller craft may more easily be damaged by or lost in powerful storms(1) or run down by merchant ships.(2) The safety problems associated with crabbing in the Bering Sea off Alaska are quite different from those encountered in shrimp trawlers in the Bay of Bengal. Over-simplification of the industry, which may lead to inappropriate regulation and thus resentment and loss of the cooperation of the fishermen concerned, can itself be a danger.

Measuring accidents and injuries in the fishing industry

There is not only a great variety in fishing operations but also a great variety in the way fishing safety and health problems are qualified and quantified. For example, deaths and injuries can be related to vessel casualties or to personnel accidents not involving loss or damage to the vessel;

they may be attributed directly to one cause (e.g. drowning) or indirectly to other causes (capsizing of vessel, falling over the side). Accidents may be attributed to a primary event or an underlying or primary cause; they may be associated with certain types of fishing (trawling, longlining) or to certain types of equipment (winches, fishing gear). The external environment may be seen as the cause (bad weather) or an accident may be attributed to the human element (inattention, fatigue, lack of training). Causes may be described in very general terms used for all professions (falling from height, slipping) or be specific to fishing (caught in trawl winch). They can be categorized under various headings, including by vessel size.(3)

A comparison between fatality statistics in the fishing industry and general occupational fatality rates of other occupational categories shows that fishing is one of the most dangerous professions. In Australia, between 1982 and 1984, the fatality rate for fishermen was 143/100,000 person-years compared to 8.1/100,000 generally; in Denmark, from 1989 to 1996, the rate was 25-30 times higher than the rate for those employed on land; in the United States in 1996, the death rate was estimated at eight times that of persons operating motor vehicles for a living, 16 times higher than such occupations as fire-fighting and police work and over 40 times the national average; in China, over 400 fishermen are reported killed in accidents each year; in Tunisia in 1994, the rate was double the national average.(4) Table 2.1 presents statistics on occupational fatalities and injuries in the fishing industry in selected countries. The ILO's Occupational Safety and Health Branch estimates that fishing has a worldwide fatality rate of 80 per 100,000 workers or approximately 24,000 deaths per year, and estimates that there are 24 million non-fatal accidents in the sector annually. Table 2.1. Occupational fatalities and injuries in the fishing industry in selected countries, 1997


Persons injured

Persons Persons Fatality rate (per 1,000) injured with lost worktime fatally injured All occupations Fishing*

Workdays lost (figures in thousands)

Canada Colombia Panama

651('96) 66('95) 143

642 76 140

9 0 3

0.069 0.077 0.11


Rep. of Korea Estonia Finland Greece Iceland Italy Lithuania Poland Portugal Spain Sweden New Zealand

134 18 45 69 ('95) 10 558('96) 12 129 2 507('96) 5 742 16('96) 46('96)

121 14 45

13 4 0

0.33 0.077

5.17 0.800 0.228 2.073('95)

0.026 2.073('95) 0.48

10 554 11 121 2 493 5 701 15 46

0 4('96) 1 8 ('96) 14 41 15 ('96) 0 0.1017 0.023 0.01 0.6496 1 194.5('96) 0.075 0.049 0.454 0.211 0.588 0.057 4.489 17('96)

* Data for fishing industry may include shoreworkers. Source: ILO: Yearbook of Labour Statistics (Geneva, 1998).

Fatalities due to vessel casualties

Vessel casualties are obviously a major risk and cause of death to fishermen. Table 2.2 shows data on lives lost by category of vessel casualty during the period 1995-97 based on information submitted to the International Maritime Organization by 18 countries and areas.(5) Tables 2.2 and 2.3 divide fishing vessels into three size categories: less than 12 metres, 12-24 metres and over 24 metres. Table 2.2. Lives lost by category of vessel casualty for 18 countries, 1995-97














Foundered Capsized Fire/explosion Collision Contact Wreck/stranded Miscellaneous Unknown Subtotal

65 23 23 11 4 14 6 5 151

28 10 21 9

16 3 4 8

33 11 27 9

50 7 21 13 1


41 9 21 11

36 10 19 7

11 3 1 3

292 76 137 71 5

22 2 1 93

3 1 2 37

16 2

23 1 1

11 2 2 12 97

17 3

109 17 11





Total Note: Vessel length in metres.





Source: IMO: Collection and analysis of casualty statistics of fishing vessels and fishermen, Note by the Secretariat (London, doc. FSI 7/6/2, 29 Jan. 1999).

This table indicates that the greatest number of fatalities are related to foundering, fires or explosions, and to the wrecking or stranding of fishing vessels. In the United States (which is not reflected in the table and which uses a different set of vessel casualty categories), of the 57 per cent of deaths directly related to vessel casualties, most are due to sinking, flooding and capsizing.(6) This, however, is only a sampling of the world fleet, and it is likely that in some of these countries the fatalities are under-reported. In some fishing communities there may be no

death certificates or coroner's report. There may also be no requirement for deaths to be reported to the local, district or national authorities. Thus, fatality statistics may only be partially representative of reality (see also the discussion of statistics in Chapter 5). There are many reasons why casualties occur. Foundering may be caused by the fishing vessel experiencing conditions which exceed its design or by hull failure due to poor maintenance; capsizing may result from poor design, inappropriate modification, improper loading or ballasting of the vessel, or from taking heavy beam seas following loss of power; a stranding may be the result of poor navigation or uncharted shoals; collisions may result from poor watchkeeping by either the fishing vessel or a passing merchant ship.

Fatal accidents on board

The nature of fishing operations also involves the risk of accidents on board. On-board accidents are meant here as those in which the vessel is neither lost nor seriously damaged but where a fisherman is killed or injured. This may result from falling overboard, handling fishing gear, slipping or falling on board as a result of vessel motion, asphyxiation from working in an enclosed space, etc. Table 2.3 shows data from 18 countries (see footnote 5) on lives lost due to accidents on board during the period 1995-97. Table 2.3. Lives lost due to accidents on board, 1995-97





<12 12<<24 >24 <12 12<<24 >24 <12 12<<24 >24

Falling overboard/ going missing Handling of fishing gear/ mechanical lifting Involving machinery Falls on board







2 1 1

1 1

17 2 3

Hit by seas Asphyxiation Other Unknown Subtotal 2 3 27 3 16

1 1 3 1 18 23 6 2 6 4 4 2 30 1 1 18 38 3 9 19 10 19

1 8 19 46

Total Note: Vessel length in metres.





Source: IMO: Collection and analysis of casualty statistics, op. cit.

Bearing in mind that the information presented above only covers a small group of countries, it is very evident that falling overboard (or going missing) remains a major cause of death. Among these losses are drownings or deaths from hypothermia. A study of fatal accidents in the Danish industrial fishing fleet during the period 1989-96 reported 70 such accidents,(7) just over half resulting from vessels sinking. Most fatalities on small vessels (less than 20 grt) occurred during the winter months in bad weather. Circumstances such as overloading, improper alterations to structure, and, for small vessels, use of vessels beyond their capacity, were indicated. Fatalities involving vessels over 20 grt resulted from lack of, or inadequate, safety procedures. Several fishermen were killed owing to being pulled over the side by gear or otherwise falling overboard and drowning -- 12 fishermen died due to some sort of accident involving machinery (winches, trawl doors, ice conveyor belts, etc.), nine accidents occurred in connection with boarding or leaving the vessel (alcohol often cited as a contributing factor) and many accidents had not been witnessed leaving the causes unknown.

Fatal accidents in small-scale artisanal fishing

Artisanal and other small-scale vessels often operate with less than adequate safety and communication equipment, first aid, search and rescue (SAR) and early warning services. In Guinea, a small country with some 7,000 artisanal marine fishermen, a survey disclosed that during one year every 15th canoe has an accident, and for every 200 registered fishermen one person (male and female fishermen, fish traders and their families) dies in a canoe accident. In Oceania, during the 1989-90 period, some 120 deaths in about 640 accidents were reported. This picture becomes worse still when the sometimes massive losses of life and equipment in tropical storms are taken into consideration.(8)

Most fishing vessels are too small to be fitted with accommodation ladders. In harbours with a rise and fall of the tide, access to vessels is normally by ladders indented into the pier with steel rungs. These rungs are sometimes twisted or, even worse, missing. Due to the common method of mooring the vessels in parallel, the fisherman then has to cross several vessels to reach his own. Such a traverse is risky even in daylight under normal circumstances. When a fisherman returns to his boat at night (in some cases under the influence of alcohol), in the darkness with no one else around, such an obstacle course can be fatal.(9)

Non-fatal accidents
Non-fatal accidents are common in the fishing industry.(10) The body regions most frequently injured include the hands, lower limbs, head and neck and upper limbs, followed by the chest, spine and abdomen. The most common types of traumas are open wounds, fractures, strains, sprains and contusions. Many non-fatal injuries may involve amputation of fingers, hands, arms and legs as well as injuries to the head and neck. Infections, lacerations and minor traumas of the hands and finger are quite frequent. Information on the Russian fleet reveals that hands were injured in 41 per cent of accidents, legs -- 29 per cent, wrists -- 18 per cent, head and neck -- 10 per cent.(11) A 1995 Swedish study concluded that hands and wrists were the most exposed body parts followed by shanks or knees and lower arms or elbows.(12) Others categorize accidents according to the nature of the injury sustained. For example, a study of lost-time accidents covering 10,475 Polish deep-sea fishermen from 1977 to 1986 recorded that the most frequent types of injuries were: contusions and crushing -- 25.2 per cent, fractures -- 24.4 per cent and wounds -- 17.7 per cent.(13)

Other diseases and health problems

An ILO survey (see box 2.1) and other information indicates that many fishermen also suffer from skin and respiratory diseases, as well as from the effects of noise and vibration. Hypertension, coronary heart diseases, stomach cancer and lung cancer are also indicated as important problems. Some diseases, such as salt-water boils and injury by or allergic reactions to marine life are peculiar to fishing. Common problems include occupational asthma, hearing loss, fatal poisoning and asphyxia, skin diseases, cancers of the lip, lung and stomach. Occupational asthma was associated with several types of fish but mostly with crustaceans and molluscs. Fatal poisoning was often related to the inhalation of toxic fumes caused by fires on board. Asphyxiation or poisoning occurred due to the lack of oxygen or the build-up of toxic gases in enclosed spaces. Skin diseases were related to handling fish or other marine life without using gloves. Lip cancer (and skin cancer) are probably the result of excessive exposure to the sun. Lung cancer may be related to excessive smoking among fishermen. It may also relate to the use of asbestos and other materials in machinery spaces.(14) Other health problems may include eye damage from excessive glare from the sun and irritations resulting from standing for long periods or sitting for long periods on cold surfaces.(15)

Box 2.1

Results of an ILO survey on health and safety issues in the fishing sector

In 1999 the ILO collected and analysed views and information, primarily from the international maritime medical community, concerning health and safety issues in the fishing sector. This was done by surveying medical practitioners in maritime countries and institutions which provided health services for fishermen. Respondents were asked to complete the questionnaire and to provide any available statistics on work-related morbidity and accidents among fishermen, as well as other relevant information. Forty-one completed questionnaires were sent back to the ILO in sufficient time to be reflected in this report. These included responses from: Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Cte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iceland, Jamaica, Lithuania, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and Vanuatu. Copies of reports, scientific papers, statistics and other information were also provided. The questionnaire concerned: medical examinations for fitness for work on fishing vessels; frequency of work-related diseases and injuries among fishermen; types of accidents; causes of accidents; actions aimed at accident prevention; injuries and diseases among fishermen working on small fishing vessels; medical care on board fishing vessels; and first aid and medical care on small fishing vessels. Where possible, the Office used classifications in line with the ILO code of practice Recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases (see Chapter 5), with some additions and modifications reflecting fishing. The results indicated that the most frequent work-related injuries in fishermen were: superficial injuries, effects of weather and exposure, injuries to the musculoskeletal system, contusions and crushing injuries, and near drowning. Drowning was a leading cause of death among fishermen. The leading types of accidents were: stepping on, striking against or being struck by an object, falling, overexertion. The leading causes of accidents were: rough weather, fatigue, poor technical condition of the vessel, inadequate or inappropriate tools, equipment, personal protective equipment and inattention. The most frequent diseases among fishermen were: skin and respiratory diseases, and the effects of

noise and vibration on board the vessel. In morbidity statistics and publications hypertension, coronary heart diseases and cancer of the lungs, bronchus and stomach were also mentioned as frequently diagnosed diseases. Some diseases are specific to fishermen, such as salt-water boils, allergic reactions to cuttlefish and weeds, fish erysipeloid, acute tenosynovitis of the wrist, conjunctivitis and poisonous fish stings of certain fish in the warm waters of the tropics and subtropics. In the majority of countries, medical and health care for fishermen has been organized. They are required to be medically examined prior to taking up their occupation, and later on at regular intervals, as required by law and regulations. Medical staff (doctors and/or nurses) are employed in some countries to accompany the crews of large trawlers, factory ships or auxiliary ships (bases) to oversee their health. Otherwise, masters or officers are trained in medical matters and provide first aid and basic health care during the vessel's voyage. Medical equipment and supplies are carried on fishing vessels, and use is made of the International Medical Guide for Ships or an equivalent national publication. Ships are in contact with medical radio stations on shore and, if necessary, casualties can be transported to shore for hospital treatment, if the distance from shore allows it. Health and medical services for fishermen are available on shore. Port health officers, port Summary and analysis based on a paper by S. Tomaszunas, consultant to the ILO on the survey.

Musculoskeletal disorders (i.e. diseases of the muscles, tendons and/or joints) are common. These problems are largely the result of heavy lifting, awkward work postures, repetitive work tasks, stress and poor work organization. In a Swedish study,(16) it was determined that 74 per cent of fishermen had experienced symptoms of musculoskeletal disorder over a 12-month period and the fishermen themselves felt that the motion of the vessel was a major contributor. Fish processing workers, whether at sea or ashore, also had a high prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders. This may be related to the highly repetitive tasks performed in a short time cycle and the lack of rotation among different tasks. As many fish processing jobs are performed by women (usually on large factory trawlers at sea or in processing plants ashore), this can be a particular characteristic of women's employment in the fishing industry. A study of artisanal fishermen in Morocco showed that one-third suffered from musculoskeletal disorders, and these were generally related to the methods used, and conditions involved, in the unloading of the catch ashore.(17) Tendonitis, related to long hours or repetitious work, is a particularly serious problem for crewmen and processing workers in the cold weather conditions of Alaska.(18)

Relating safety and health to fishing methods(19)

Safety and health risks vary by fishing method. For example, longlining may be characterized by long working hours, stationary work and relatively less heavy lifting. Dangerous aspects of autoliners, conventional liners or hauling craft may include being caught in the line and pulled over the side during line setting and becoming caught in the line-roller and line when hauling. With trawling, the risk is highest during hauling as the crew usually works close to the wires and other gear (e.g. otter boards) under considerable strain. In heavy weather, the wire or gear may sweep across the deck, causing major injuries or loss of life. Common accidents involve falling or being struck or crushed.(20)

Relating safety and health to processing the catch

Catch processing is carried out on nearly all vessels except those that deliver the catch to shoreside fish processors. Freezing and wetfish operation may result in less accidents than on vessels using more extensive processing machinery; however, the cold environment and the frequent change in temperatures (varying by as much as 40 to 45 degrees centigrade) can lead to health problems, including frostbite and hypothermia. This work can also be very heavy. Fish processing lines can involve high noise levels and very specialized, stationary work (in some ways similar to assembly line work ashore). An analysis of the processing of the catch on a Dutch beam trawler revealed: heavy labour due to much lifting of baskets and boxes during intermediate storage and to working in the cooled fish hold during icing and final storage; many minor hand and finger injuries caused by the manual gutting of the catch; falling in the processing workstation positioned under the foredeck and in the hold; stress due to peak workloads and short work cycles; high noise, vibration and acceleration levels; and poor ambient conditions during work in the fish hold.(21)

Relating injuries to jobs or tasks

Accidents and injuries in the fishing industry may be categorized according to the job or task concerned. Table 2.4 below shows some of the types of work commonly performed on fishing vessels and the injuries frequently related to this work. Table 2.4. Risks of injury associated with specific tasks


On-board vessel injury

Setting and hauling trawl, purse seine and other fishing gear Connecting trawl doors Bleeding and gutting

Entanglement in the fishing gear or wire cables; crushing injuries; falling overboard Crushing injuries; falling overboard Cuts from knives or machines; musculoskeletal disorders

Longlining and handlining Heavy lifting Filleting

Wounds from hooks; entanglement in the lines Musculoskeletal disorders Cuts; amputations using knives or machines; musculoskeletal disorders

Trimming fillets Working in confined spaces; loading and landing Source: Rafnsson, op. cit.

Cuts from knives; musculoskeletal disorders Intoxication, asphyxia

In a study of the Russian fishing industry, which has a relatively high proportion of large trawlers, accidents were distributed as shown in table 2.5. Table 2.5. Accident distribution in the Russian fishing fleet, by task


Maintenance of machinery, equipment and tools Handling of fishing gear Cargo operations Repair work, including emergency repairs Travelling to and from fishing grounds Mooring operations

25 15 13 10 16 9

Source: Minko, op. cit.

The Workers' Compensation Board of British Columbia, Canada, reported that between 1993 and 1995, of 714 work accidents at sea, the activities most associated with accidents were: handling fishing gear -- 23 per cent, handling fish -- 21 per cent, and emergency response -- 9 per cent. A 1996 Danish study revealed that nearly half of all injuries occurred while shooting or hauling fishing gear.(22) A study of accidents on Dutch beam trawlers categorized accident sources as being a combination of equipment and type of work. Categories included: warping drum for cod end rope/gilson wire; snapping of cable; jammed by cable; hit by cable slam; swinging of load; jammed by net; dragged by net/rope; gutting of fish; use of tools; falling; doors, hatches; fish crates.(23) Fishermen in small-scale and artisanal fishing operations can suffer particular types of accidents and injuries. For example, fishing operations that require partial or full submersion(24) expose fisherfolk to injuries by fish and other animals. These can include: posining; injury caused when bringing the catch on board, including some from by-catch; sting from poisonous fish (common in some areas); falling overboard; capsizing (Often due to crossing surf or hauling gear); and fouling gear in the propeller.(25)

Causes of accidents
What is behind these events? Again, there are different approaches to examining the causes of accidents, but all have the same general objective -- to understand what factors, or series of factors, led to a casualty or accident, in order to prevent them in the future or mitigate their effects. The IMO has collected information from member States on the primary causes of casualties which led to the death of fishermen (see table 2.6). The table divides primary causes into a number of categories covering both vessel and human factors. Human error, fishing gear incidents and adverse weather appear as important primary causes in the accidents reported to the IMO. As will be seen later in this report, new investigation techniques are helping investigators obtain a better understanding of what causes accidents. Table 2.6. Primary causes of fatalities of fishermen





<12 12<<24 >24 <12 12<<24 >24 <12 12<<24 >24

Human error Steering gear failure Fishing gear incident Other failure of vessel, its machinery or equipment Adverse weather Icing Other Unknown Subtotal





1 11

1 6

2 2 9 1 3 1 7

2 6

1 1

7 46 1

4 50 80

2 11 28

1 14 26

9 23 57

1 12 16

9 5 26

3 29 49

4 13 39 15 22

33 172

Total Note: Vessel length in metres.





Source: IMO: Collection and analysis of casualty statistics, op. cit.

The role of the human factor or human error has been a recurrent theme in recent discussions on how to improve safety (see box 2.2). While always recognizing that human and equipment causes can often not be clearly separated, these discussions have helped remind us, in an age when technology-based solutions can be oversold, of how action or lack of action by people is essential to safety.

Box 2.2

Why do accidents happen?

Most fishing vessel casualties are the result of human error. Moreover, even when casualties have been the result of equipment failure or bad weather, the human factor has often played a part. Maintenance and repair may have been inadequate, for example, or there may have been poor judgement exercised as to when and where to go fishing. Faced with economic and competitive pressures, fishermen are prone to take calculated risks. In view of the liabilities that confront the vessel operator today, however, careful risk management is crucial for business success, not to mention survival. Says one veteran skipper, an emergency at sea is like a snowball: it grows. At first, one or two things go wrong and you can probably cope with those. Suddenly, however, you've got four or five things to deal with at once, and unless the crew is well prepared and trained, disaster strikes. Source: North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners' Association: Vessel Safety Manual (Seattle, 4th (revised) edition, 1997).

In one study,(26) among other things, vessel-related factors and behavioural factors were observed. Vessel-related factors included: non-availability or lack of adherence to structural guidelines, classification society rules and similar standards during vessel design and construction or conversion; general non-availability of stability data for each vessel; inadequate material condition of vessels and equipment, especially machinery, alarm systems and survival equipment; unavailable or inadequate operating equipment, including bilge alarms and smoke detectors, bilge pumps and fire-fighting systems; use of machinery and fishing gear with inadequate occupational safety and health features; inadequate personal occupational safety equipment; and inadequate or insufficient survival equipment. Behavioural factors included: fatigue/stress; improper or inadequate procedures (including inadequate or unsafe loading/stability practices) and inadequate watchkeeping; improper maintenance; inattention (including carelessness); inadequate human engineering in design; inadequate physical condition; incapacitation through use of alcohol and drugs; inexperience (including inadequate knowledge and skills and insufficient familiarity with the vessel or fishing activity); judgemental errors (including faulty decision-making and risk- taking); navigational/operator error (including inexperience and errors in judgement); neglect (including wilful negligence); personnel relationships; and working conditions.

Providing a safe vessel

Fishing vessel owners have the primary responsibility for providing a safe vessel and safety equipment. However, some may claim that replacing vessels or providing certain safety equipment is too costly. Vessel modifications, including adding superstructure or equipment weight on deck, are often made without adequate consideration or testing of their influence on stability. Measures to reduce noise (which is a common problem) and to guard machinery may be neglected. Most countries have adopted laws and regulations concerning vessel safety. However, these are often aimed only, or primarily, at larger vessels. Design, construction and equipment

requirements for small vessels may be very limited, and in some cases non-existent. In many countries small vessels are not subject to inspection or, even if they can be inspected, they are not due to lack of resources. As indicated in Chapter 1, it appears that many distant-water fishing vessels are being registered in countries which do not exercise effective control of safety and health issues (i.e. very few regulations, insufficient inspectors or administrative machinery, etc.). While it may be evident that fishermen would wish to at least carry such items as fire extinguishers, life preservers and simple first-aid kits, many do not. Fishermen are very practical, and many object to carrying, and paying for, items they believe are unnecessary. Many barely break even financially, and items such as an immersion suit or life-raft may seem excessive and expensive. When money does become available, the fisherman may decide that it is better spent on new, updated fishing gear or fish-finding equipment which will result in a larger catch, less time on the water and perhaps less time at risk. If a fisherman believes that a piece of equipment is not really necessary, he may resent, and strongly fight, requirements to carry it. An owner working alone on his own vessel may be willing to take risks; an owner carrying other fishermen on board obviously has greater responsibilities. In developing countries, or even in small-scale and artisanal fisheries in other countries, many vessels are built without following modern rules of construction which aim to ensure good stability and seaworthiness under specific operating conditions. With the almost universal absence of mandatory criteria and inspection, many boat builders have produced unsafe boats, mostly due to lack of experience, financial constraints and lack of appropriate materials or lax building practices. Even when technical cooperation projects have improved vessel standards, the results have not always, however, led to increased safety as enthusiastic fishermen have, in some cases, used the vessels in conditions for which they were not designed (see box 2.3).(27) Other builders may find it difficult to leave behind traditional vessel designs and building practices.

Box 2.3 Improving vessel safety -- A Samoan story

In Samoa, a small catamaran called the "alia" was designed and introduced under an FAO programme. The alia was designed to enable fishermen to reach safely outlying reefs and beyond to fish with hooks and lines. An economic success resulted, the number of alias went into the hundreds and even serious losses due to two severe cyclones could not reduce their numbers for long. But with alia fishermen venturing further offshore, beyond the range for which the alias had been designed, accidents became more frequent and the number of casualties increased. Source: Ben-Yami, op. cit.

Providing a healthy working environment and medical care

Discussions on safety and health in the fishing industry focus on what can be done to prevent accidents leading to death or injury. Consideration must also be given to how to protect other aspects of health. Adequate accommodation becomes more important the longer a vessel stays at sea. Accommodation includes the size, location and quality of eating, sleeping and recreational spaces; adequate heating and lighting; sanitary facilities; galley equipment; and facilities for treatment when a fisherman is injured or becomes ill. Reducing noise in both working and living spaces is important. In contrast, one contract used for distant-water fishing vessels provides: "I understand fully that due to limited water supply, drinking water is supplied by ration. Therefore, sea water is to be used in bathing, washing clothes and tooth brushing." The Office has received several copies of this contract from various sources. It is apparently used on some vessels employing Indonesian, Philippine and other Asian fishermen. Obviously, quality of food and rest are necessary for good health. The ILO survey indicates that stomach problems are common. This may be related to food quality or insufficient time for digestion due to the rhythm of work. The Office has received reports of fishermen who are not given food of sufficient nutritional value or in sufficient quantities. The quality of medical examination and medical care is important. Examinations are usually required for fishermen working on fishing vessels which are at sea for a period of more than a few days. However, many fishermen, even those on vessels which stay at sea for long periods, may not be regularly examined. This can lead not only to problems for these fishermen but also for other crew members who may themselves become ill or who may be required to take on the work of their sick crewmate. A sick or injured seafarer must also rely on the knowledge of the captain and crew, perhaps with the assistance of radio advice, to provide immediate first aid. Medical chests or kits may be missing, inadequate or outdated. As in all other aspects of fishing safety and health, there are examples of abuse (fishermen denied medical treatment aboard or ashore) and, conversely, thoughtful innovation (see Chapter 3). Medical care ashore is another issue. Some fishermen receive medical treatment ashore through national medical care programmes or through insurance provided as an employment benefit. Others lacking a formal employment contract must pay for their own health insurance or medical care. Many fishermen have limited or no access to medical care.

Training and risk awareness

Adequate training would seem to be a prerequisite for working in such a dangerous profession. In some countries nearly all fishermen must receive some training, in some only captains or senior officers must be trained, others have very few requirements.

Generally speaking, the larger the vessel the higher the requirements for the training and certification of fishermen. Chapters 3 to 6 discuss some national, regional and international measures to ensure that fishermen, particularly captains and senior officers, are properly trained. Skippers of small fishing vessels are often not required to be certified and/or undergo mandatory marine training and pass examinations. This contributes to many stability-associated accidents, especially in industrial countries, where small-scale vessels may have a considerable cargo capacity and some relatively heavy machinery on the deck. Most decked small fishing vessels can be made unstable by skippers who have not been taught the difference between a "stiff" but stable boat, and one that is rolling gently and slowly but is either inherently unstable or its stability has been impaired by overloading. Insufficient training is also a reason for some skippers' and crews' ignorance of means and ways of dealing with such emergencies as fire on board or taking water. The skipper of a small fishing vessel not trained to handle her in heavy seas and strong currents, and especially in narrow passages, represents a risk on board.(28) Training takes time. At sea, training (e.g. safety drills) may be seen as interfering with fishing operations or rest periods; ashore, time spent training may be viewed as unpaid work which is also keeping fishermen from precious time with family and friends. Training can also be costly, and government funding may be difficult to obtain. Despite these difficulties, however, many owners have established thorough training programmes. Training must be credible. Fishermen quickly get a sense of whether or not the person speaking on safety issues understands them and their problems. If they believe that what is presented is impracticable, costly or simply not well thought out, they may not only reject the instructor but also the idea of attending another training course or programme. Consideration might therefore be given to using experienced and respected fishermen to conduct training, such as fishermen who have left the sea due to fishing restrictions, injuries or age. Basic education is a problem in some countries. Fishermen run the full range from highly educated individuals, formally or informally taught, to those with little or no formal schooling; in poor areas, many fishermen cannot read. Training materials should be aimed at the education level of the target group. They should be clear and well illustrated, so they can be clearly understood by most fishermen.

Culture and attitude

Much has been done (or at least tried) to improve safety and health in the fishing industry. This includes not only government regulation but also training and safety awareness programmes. Yet fatality and injury rates remain high. Obviously, certain dangers inherent in working at sea will always remain and cannot be eliminated. However, perhaps one of the main reasons for the numerous deaths and accidents lies in some fishermen's attitudes towards safety and towards the regulations established to improve it (see box 2.4).

Box 2.4

Developing a safety culture in fishing

Our impression, gained through the experience of investigating several hundred fishing vessel accidents annually, is that the sector is failing to keep up with the rest of the maritime industry in developing a safety culture. Source: R.D. Coton: Fishing vessel safety -- The insurer's perspective (London, Shipowners' P&I Club, 1999), unpublished.

Fishing is a profession associated with risk-taking. Elements of risk of various sorts and degrees are inherent in almost every decision made by a skipper or individual fisherman -- decisions on when and where to go fishing, whether to head for shelter, what method/gear to use, whether or not to change a fishing spot, which direction to set their gear, when and where to land their catch, etc. Such decisions take into account weather changes, the condition of the fishing vessel and equipment, the condition and dexterity of the crew, and so on. They depend on the skipper's culture, individual attitude, experience and skill. Fishing is highly competitive. Highly successful fishermen or "highliners" enjoy tremendous prestige among fisherfolk and their communities (see box 2.5). Prestige considerations may motivate skippers to take unnecessary risks.(29) This being said, it may also be true that, over the long term, success may also relate to the ability to avoid risks. Accidents may happen to those who aspire to be "highliners" yet lack the required ability to calculate the risk they are taking. (30)

Box 2.5 What it takes to be a highliner

This is what it takes to be a highliner. You have to be the first boat on the grounds in the morning and the last one to leave at night. You have to keep your lines clean at all times: you can't catch fish if you have jellyfish or junk fish hanging on your hooks. You have to go to find the fish before the other guy finds them and when you do you have got to make them bite better than the other guy. When the bite is on, you have to work your gear faster than the other guy. And you don't stop to eat as often as the other guy; better yet, you don't eat at all. Most of the time this will give you the little edge you need to beat the hell out of most. Source: A. Morton and B. Proctor: "Heart of the raincoast: A life story", in The Fishermen, 18 Dec. 1998.

Many fishermen have a different perception of danger to shoreside workers. Social and cultural attitudes, beliefs and values play an important role in the perception of, and response to, danger. The denial of danger, independence, fatalism, the belief that safety is a problem that primarily

requires a technological solution, are common themes among many fishermen. Efforts to improve safety should begin with trying to understand the fishing culture and to involve the fishers in the development and enforcement of safety regulations.(31)

Human factor considerations in traditional fisheries(32)

In long-standing traditional fisheries, artisanal fisherfolk have inherited time-proven responses to crises at sea, survival strategies and weather perception that, along with their fishing know-how, evolved through ages of operating traditional technology under specific, local conditions. However, the introduction of modern technologies into traditional systems has in many cases upset the traditional ways of doing things, not always for the better. Lack of appreciation of the limits of modern technology has led to the taking of undue risks (e.g. assuming the outboard motor will always work). This is often exacerbated by shortcomings in technical training in engine operation and maritime training in navigation, in the use of electronic aids and safety equipment, and in first aid and behaviour in emergencies. There is also a loss of traditional knowledge not only due to the shift to unfamiliar technologies but also to changes in the age composition of crews. Old, experienced fishermen for various reasons stay ashore more often. Young fishermen may not only lack the traditional survival skills and equipment but may also feel less vulnerable to accidents than their elders who, though less skilled in operating modern machinery, have more experience in the marine environment. Another factor is a mistrust of modern weather forecasting systems and, perhaps even more so, of those who convey the information. A warning from a shoreside official with no fishing experience may not be believed. For example, when the deadly November 1996 cyclone surprised the Kakinada coast in India, messengers issuing the warnings were met in some places with derision by fisherfolk who could not discern the usual storm-indicating signs in the sky and sea. On the day of the cyclone, fishing boats out taking good catches did not anticipate bad weather and would not heed the radio warnings to take shelter.

Influence of the share system and the lack of a minimum wage on safety and health
Chapter 1 discusses the various wage arrangements in the fishing industry, including the practice of paying fishermen partly or wholly on the basis of sharing the catch. The share system can be motivating, create a sense of team spirit and give everyone a stake in the result, but it can also cause fishermen to accept poor working conditions and long working hours. In order to increase their income, the skipper and crew will ensure that fishing gear is in use for as long as possible. This can lead to hasty manoeuvring and the adoption of unsafe practices. The working rhythm, which is controlled by the size of the catch, the length of the trip, the length of the haul and quality requirements, may be an important factor in accidents.(33) The lack of a minimum wage for fishermen and the vagueness associated with fishing income may also lead some fishermen to fish harder and take unnecessary risks.(34)

The right to refuse unsafe work

Article 13 of the ILO's Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) (see also Chapter 6) provides that: "A worker who has removed himself from a work situation which he has reasonable justification to believe presents an imminent and serious danger to his life or health shall be protected from undue consequences in accordance with national conditions and practice." However, it is often difficult for fishermen to exercise this right. As the author of one study(35) noted: The right to refuse unsafe work on offshore vessels has been cited as a major breakthrough allowing offshore fishers the same rights as onshore workers. As of yet, no crew member has ever evoked this right. Why? It is not enough to say that physical risks are part of the job and that economic concerns dominate. Nor is it enough to argue that peer pressure makes this impossible; although it is a necessary part of the equation it is not significant. The fear of retribution by the captain or the company -- that is the fear of the loss of work -- is also relevant as is the fear of lost wages for the voyage itself. The myth of the co-adventurer also plays a part; that is, workers are seen as co-risktakers and as such must take both economic and physical risks. But the necessary condition is the lack of job security, economic instability, and the lack of alternative employment opportunities for these men. The ability of a fisherman to exercise the right to refuse unsafe work will also vary with the persons directly concerned (supervisor, skipper, owner), whether the fisherman is protected by a trade union (and the extent of that protection) and the legal and administrative system of the flag State of the fishing vessel.

Several studies of fishing safety, and many investigations of casualties and accidents involving fishing vessels, have cited fatigue as a contributing factor to casualties and accidents. There are a number of definitions of the term fatigue as it applies to people. Fatigue has been defined as "a reduction in physical and/or mental capability as the result of physical, mental or emotional exertion which may impair nearly all physical abilities including strength, speed, reaction time, coordination, decision-making or balance".(36) It has also been said that: "Fatigue is used as a catch-all term for a variety of different experiences, such as physical discomfort from overworking a group of muscles, difficulty concentrating, difficulty appreciating potentially important signals, and problems staying awake. In the context of an investigation, fatigue is important if it potentially reduces efficiency, erodes the safety margin or otherwise impairs cognitive or physical performance."(37) A Spanish study of working patterns on fishing vessels examined the time within a working shift when accidents occur. It was observed that after the first few hours of work there was a progressive reduction in the probability of accidents. The more serious accidents occurred more frequently when work continued beyond eight hours when the probability increased. However, there was no special relationship between the death rate and the hours worked, and it was suggested that this might be more related to the time of the day at which the accident occurred or other causes.(38). In another study (see box 2.6) accidents were seen to relate directly to hours of work.

Box 2.6 An excessively long workday

The fundamental causes of accidents is the excessively long workday that prevails in the industry; the sad fact is that any type of fishing, people work work 15 to 20 hours a day without a break; the aptly named "indefinite workday" is a fact of life through the industry; this is a primary factor that applies regardless of the type of fleet Source: M.T. Garca Durn: Analysis of acopational accidents:Legal and administrative aspects Paper submitted to the second International Symposium on Safety and Working conditions aboard Fisshing Vessels,, Bamio, Spain, Sept. 1992.

The share system (see above) may also contribute to fatigue. It may create incentives for minimizing the number of crew members: the fewer fishermen sharing in the catch, the more pay for each. Time not spend fishing is considered wasted, unpaid time for every fishermen. When fishing is very good, there is a tendency to continue, despite excessive working hours and phyysical exhaustation. As one author put it:
How long a vessel spends at sea depends on several factors: the number of hauls, the technology involved, the availability and maintenance of both fish-finding and fish-catching equipment, the frequency of equipment breakdowns, the experience of the captain, and the availability of fish, to name a few. Since workers want to get home as fast as possible and to make as much money as possible on a trip, they will push themselves when the fishing is good. They will work beyond their regular six-hour work shift, and push their equipment to the limit in order to bring in large catches of fish. But fatigue leads to higher accidents rates(39).

New technology can often alleviate fatigue by reducing the physical exertion of the crew. However, this is not always the case. In one study it was observed that the introduction of new containers for storing catch (as an alternative to loading fish loosely in the hold) on deep-sea wet trawlers increased the hours of work for the same tonnage of fish.(40) Fishing management systems may also contribute to fatigue. An example are "olympic" or "derby" fisheries, where fishermen are under great pressure to catch as much as possible before the Total Allowable Catch limit is reached. In the most intense fisheries, this has led to continuous fishing for days on end, with little or no rest. Fatigue may also be related to the quality of the rest and relaxation time. This may itself be linked to overall vessel design and to the quality of accommodation. As one insurance representative put it: Fatigue can be caused by many factors, the type of the vessel and manning level are important but much may also depend on the design of the vessel. For example, on many vessels crew quarters still seem to be a low priority, coming second to the needs of the fishing and processing equipment. They can be sited near noisy machinery or in a part of the vessel where the motion is great and often the outfitting of the accommodation is quite spartan. On many vessels the best seating consists of a padded bench with a vertical padded backrest along the bulkhead -- not very

comfortable. When the most comfortable chair on a ship is in a nice quiet wheelhouse is it so surprising that we are seeing an increase in instances of watchkeepers falling asleep? Rather than putting the emphasis on watch alarms to wake up fatigued watchkeepers, would it not be better to provide comfortable accommodation where the off-duty crew can get proper rest so that they come on duty as fresh as possible?(41) Fatigue may be cumulative, especially when fishermen have very little time ashore. One study in Canada included a survey of the view of fishers.(42) One described his situation as follows: The company sets the work schedule. The company that I've been working for, we have five days in port. But the bigger companies, they're sending their men out two and three days after they come in. They are tired. This could create more accidents than what is normal if you could have your rest ... They're just tiring the men out more ... The author said such comments were persistent and that, though unions had been able to increase fishers' earnings, this was at the cost of non-monetary benefits. She said some fishers blamed the unions, and others blamed the companies, but all agreed that lengthier trips and short periods at home resulted in exhausted men. These examples indicate that the linkages between safety and health risks, and fatigue, pay systems and long working hours are crucial. Employment contracts of some fishermen do not attempt to hide the extraordinary working hours which lie ahead (see box 2.7).

Box 2.7 No limits

I understand fully that there is no overtime required for a crew member in the fishing vessel, so there is NO overtime pay. There are also NO definite working hours. Usually a crew is required to work for a minimum of 18 hours to 22 hours straight. Source: Provision from the employment contract of a Filipino fishing vessel crew member on a distantwater fishing vessel.

Economic and fisheries management factors(43)

Economic need or temporary financial difficulties such as insufficient earnings and pressure by fish-dealers, boat owners, banks and other creditors, etc., may cause fishermen to act in a way that could create dangerous situations. Such behaviour, especially where it involves sailing out despite storm forecasts, trying to make an extra haul when better judgement dictates to seek shelter, or overloading the boat, can prove tragic. Fisheries management methods may also have an impact on safety. As mentioned earlier, derby or olympic fisheries may incite fisherfolk to fish in bad weather and take other increased risks,

though this method of management does seem to be waning. Individual transferable quotas (ITQs) and similar systems might reduce risk-taking as staying in port in bad weather hardly affects the practically guaranteed total catch of each fishing unit involved in such a fishery. However, when the weather is bad some fishermen may still fish in order to take advantage of the higher price paid due to the lower number of fish being landed. A "rush for fish" may also occur under the individual quota system if fishermen suspect that the stock size has been overestimated and deteriorated catches may not pay for their running expenses if they do not catch their share sufficiently early. There is fear that quota systems may lead eventually to the concentration of ownership in fewer hands which may bring non-owner skippers, who may be less experienced than owner-skippers, into the fishery, thus reducing safety. Some fishermen believe that hired skippers may overload their vessels because of pressure or bonuses from the owners and fear of losing their jobs if they land less catch than their colleagues. Where quotas are costly, fishermen may take risks so as to avoid facing bankruptcy. Efforts to control fishing by limiting the length of vessels have in some cases resulted in rather odd, wide designs or very, very cramped accommodation.(44)

An integrated approach to looking at accidents

One useful way to look at why accidents occur and to emphasize the complexity of accident causation, is illustrated by what is known as "Reason's model". This model, developed by Dr. James Reason of the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, looks beyond the immediate circumstances of the accident and looks at the preconditions at the time of the occurrence. This may be a useful tool in identifying who should take what actions to prevent and mitigate the effect of future accidents. In the model (see figure 2.1), the first layer (defences) represents defences that should mitigate the results of the unsafe act. The second layer (unsafe acts) and third layer (preconditions), include such conditions as fatigue, stress, operating practices, etc. The fourth layer (line management) includes such aspects as training, maintenance, etc. The fifth layer depicts all highlevel decision-makers such as regulators, owners, designers, manufacturers, trade unions, etc. Dr. Reason suggests that these decision-makers frequently make "fallible" decisions and these resulting latent defects stay dormant waiting for someone to commit an unsafe act, and thereby trigger a potential accident scenario. If the system's defences function as intended, the results of the unsafe act are caught and the effects are limited. If the defences do not function, the accident could prove tragic. The model shows the importance of reducing or eliminating safety deficiencies. This can be represented as a reduction in the number or size of the holes, thus reducing the probability of an accident. Reason's model is particularly useful in illustrating how an accident can have a number of causes.(45)

The following is a hypothetical example, drawn up by the Office, of how Reason's model might be used to describe an accident on a trawler leading to the loss of a fisherman's arm: (1) the regulations in a given country do not require new entrants to fishing to receive any safety training (decision); (2) the owner does not require this either (decision), neither does he require the skipper to conduct any training on board (decision or line management); (3) at sea, an experienced crew member becomes ill and the newcomer is asked to fill in, having spent very little time on deck and having received little or no guidance (line management); (4) the vessel is operating in fairly rough conditions (precondition); (5) everyone is fatigued (precondition) and the newcomer ventures too close to the deck gear (unsafe act) and loses his balance due to an unanticipated motion of the vessel; (6) he falls into a winch not fitted with proper guards (a possible defence) and his arm is severed before there is time to stop the winch. The fisherman has lost an arm not only due to deck gear or inattentiveness but also to a series of mistakes by himself, the skipper, the owner and the regulator -- all the holes in the model were aligned. The above example illustrates that measures to prevent accidents as well as to preserve the health of fishermen must be implemented at many levels. An additional consideration is how to reduce the severity of the consequences of an accident. For example, in the scenario described above,

there are latent conditions and immediate actions which can mitigate the severity of the accident. The fisherman whose arm is lost faces permanent disability or even death from bleeding, shock or other causes. The latent condition "lack of training in first aid" could result in a death; conversely, immediate action by a crewmate with proper first-aid training may save a life. Achieving the appropriate balance of responsibility and action among governments, fishing vessel owners, fishermen and others is one of the major challenges involved in improving the safety record. All those concerned must consider how they can reduce the number and size of the holes.

Search and rescue

When a vessel suffers a casualty and either sinks or can no longer manoeuvre, fishermen are usually in extreme danger. Search and rescue (SAR) services are on call in many countries. However, the weather conditions, distance from the coast and the state of search and rescue services of the nearby coastal State or States can vary considerably. In most developed countries, these services are provided by the military, the coast guard, voluntary lifeboat organizations or a combination of any of these. Fishermen themselves are important elements in search and rescue, using either their own vessels or, in some cases, participating in voluntary groups. In some developing countries, and even some developed ones, the lack of adequate search and rescue services remains a serious problem. Lack of communication equipment on board some small fishing vessels does not help this situation. Inadequate search and rescue services means inadequate medical evacuation services, removing yet another possible protective measure for injured or sick fishermen.

Insurance, and the laws under which it operates, can influence safety and health. Those systems which most directly reward fishermen for safe operations, while remaining financially viable, may be most effective. Ideally, safe operators should pay low rates; unsafe operators will pay higher rates and may eventually be forced out of business. A serious problem in the fishing industry is that many fishermen have no insurance or, if they do have insurance, it covers the vessels but not the crew. This is generally a problem for fishermen on small vessels, particularly in developing countries, but is not unknown in developed countries. Insurance covering accidents and injuries to the crew may take a number of different forms, including stock insurance companies, Lloyd's associations and mutuals. In the first two forms, insurance is a profit-making venture. The purpose of mutuals is not to make a profit but to provide insurance at a low cost. Policyholders participate in the operations of the company, having voting rights and the power and responsibility to share in the company's financial success and failure. If premiums paid exceed what is needed for losses and expenditures, part of the surplus can be returned to the policyholders.(47) Members of the mutual are very selective and tend to bar fishermen who do not meet strict criteria.

Protection and indemnity (P&I) clubs are a form of mutual. P&I insurance covers the owner for any legal liabilities which may be incurred towards third parties arising out of the operation of the vessel. This may include paying compensation to crew members injured at work and providing medical care in a foreign port.(48) Protection and indemnity insurance can be one of the highest fixed costs faced by fishing vessel owners. Premiums are as much as twice (per tonne) of those of other commercial vessel operators and may vary between countries. For example, in 1987 in the United Kingdom the cost of P&I insurance was approximately 5 to 10 per cent of a vessel's premium expenditure while in the United States it was closer to 50 per cent, perhaps due to the legal system and, at that time, to the very limited safety regulations governing fishing vessels.(49) Workers' compensation systems may benefit employers by relieving them of the primary responsibility for work-related illnesses and injuries and the burden of potentially large awards granted by judges or juries in liability trials.(50) This may reduce the under-reporting of accidents or injuries, may help to encourage fishermen to seek medical assistance and may lead to better data on the nature and extent of injuries and illnesses. Such systems may also remove the threat of large jury awards following severe accidents. Conversely, such awards may serve as a powerful incentive to provide a safe workplace. Insurers could play a greater role in improving safety and health in the future. New technology may allow the insurance industry to publish more information about incidents on board fishing vessels worldwide so that owners, operators and designers can learn of the problems that others have encountered and the solutions they have found.(51)

The cost of deaths, injuries and illnesses

Accidents and illnesses in the fishing industry are costly. The fishermen bear pain and loss of income and sometimes even lose their lives. The family shares in this suffering as well as in the stress that comes from knowing that fishing is a dangerous profession. The employer, community and country may have to bear part or all of the costs of hospitalization, unemployment benefits, as well as costs associated with medical evacuation or search and rescue operations (see box 2.8 below) and, when a vessel casualty occurs, costs associated with towing, pollution, clearing blocked waterways, etc.(52)

Box 2.8 The cost of lost lives and vessels in the United States fishing industry

Total loss of vessel and deaths are just the tip of the iceberg when identifying the property, injury and other costs of all fishing vessel accidents. According to the study "The economic impacts of accidents on the marine industry", the figures are quite staggering. Taking into account both the direct costs and indirect costs such as drops in stock prices, insurance premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and P&I club payments, interruptions in operations or loss of contracts among many others, accidents cost the

fishing industry over $240 million annually. This is more than three times the annual cost identified in that study for the tanker industry, and four times greater than the passenger vessel industry. Not included in these statistics are losses of productivity, other indirect costs, and the cost of Coast Guard search and rescue (SAR) for fishing vessels. Available data for 1992 and 1993 show the Coast Guard conducted over 8,000 SAR cases for fishing vessels, expending over 38,000 resource hours at a cost of approximately $45.7 million. Source: J.D. Spitzer: Fishing Vessel Casualty Task Force Report (United States Coast Guard, Mar. 1999).

For the fishing vessel owner, the cost may be experienced in a number of ways. These include the working time lost by an injured fisherman; time lost by other fishermen and crew members who stop work (e.g. to assist an injured fisherman, out of curiosity, out of sympathy, etc.); time lost by officers, skippers and shore management (e.g. assisting the injured fisherman, investigating the cause of the accident, arranging for the fisherman's job to be taken over by another fisherman, preparing mandatory accident reports and attending hearings before state officials); damage to equipment or other property or the spoilage of material and fish; interference with fishing and processing activities (failure to fulfil orders on time, loss of bonuses, payment of forfeits and other similar causes); costs associated with employee welfare and benefit systems; cost of continuing wages of the injured fisherman after his return (although he or she may not be fully productive); loss of profit on the injured fisherman's productivity and on idle equipment; consequences of excitement or weakened morale of the crew due to the accident; and overhead costs per injured employee, the expense of running the vessel which continues while the injured employee is a non-producer.(53) During 1994-95, WorkSafe Western Australia determined that the average cost per lost time injury claim was Aus$6,197, with an average of 29.3 working days lost per injury.(54) Chapters 3 to 5 will look at actions as examples of national, regional and international measures and activities which have aimed to improve safety and health in the fishing industry.

1. In the last few decades alone, thousands of Asia and Pacific region fishermen -- and their family members -- have been lost to storms and coastal flooding. 2. M. Ben-Yami: Risks and dangers in small-scale fisheries: An overview, an unpublished paper prepared for the Office in view of this report. 3. In an effort to develop the basic requirements for the collection, recording and notification of reliable data on occupational accidents, diseases and related statistics, the ILO has published a code of practice entitled Recording and notification of occupational accidents and diseases (Geneva, 1996). This is described in Ch. 5.

4. Other estimated comparative rates for 1997 (with x indicating the occupational fatality rate for the general population) include Republic of Korea (15x), Estonia (11x), Italy (21x), Lithuania (11x), Poland (9x), Romania (2x), Spain (6x) and Canada (3.5x). 5. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Vanuatu and Hong Kong, China. 6. J.D. Spitzer: Fishing Vessel Casualty Task Force Report (United States Coast Guard, Mar. 1999). 7. H.L. Hansen, Consultant, Danish Maritime Occupational Health Services and Danish Maritime Authorities. 8. Ben-Yami, op. cit. 9. Dr. A. Smith, FAO, personal communication (1999). 10. V. Rafnsson: "Health problems and disease patterns", in ILO: Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety (Geneva, 4th edition, 1998), Vol. 3, Ch. 66: "Fishing". 11. V.M. Minko: On safety and health in the Russian fishing industry (Kaliningrad State Technical University), a paper prepared for the ILO. 12. M. Trner et al.: "Analysis of serious occupational accidents in Swedish fishery", in Safety Science (Amsterdam, Elsevier Science B.V., 1995), No. 21. 13. S. Tomaszunas: "Work-related lost-time accidents in deep-sea fishermen", in Bulletin of the Institute of Maritime and Tropical Medicine (Gdynia, Poland), V. 43, No. 1/4, 1992. 14. Rafnsson, op. cit. 15. Dr. A. Smith, FAO, personal correspondence (1999). 16. H. lafsdttir: "Musculoskeletal disorders among fishermen and workers in the fish processing industry", in ILO: Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety, op. cit. 17. A. Teimmi: Les troubles musculo-squelettiques (TMS) chez les marins pcheurs, study presented to the 6th Occupational Medicine Congress (Casablanca, 1997). 18. R. Steiner and A. Embick: "Tendonitis and related afflictions in fishermen and processing workers", in Alaska Sea-Grams (University of Alaska), No. 27, Jan. 1987. 19. For a brief description of fishing methods, see H. Brdarson: "Major sectors and processes", in ILO: Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety, op. cit.

20. E. Kjerstad and J. Grinde: "Working environment and health aspects in fishing vessels", Proceedings of the World Symposium on Fishing Gear and Fishing Vessel Design (The Newfoundland and Labrador Institute of Fisheries and Marine Technology, 1989). 21. J.A. Stoop: Safety and working conditions aboard fishing vessels, Paper submitted to the Second International Symposium on Safety and Working Conditions aboard Fishing Vessels, Bamio, Spain, Sep. 1992. 22. O. Jensen: "Mortality in Danish fishermen", in Bulletin of the Institute of Maritime and Tropical Medicine (Gdynia, Poland), Vol. 47, No. 1/4, 1996. 23. H.P. Prpper: An analysis and evaluation of occupational accidents and possible solutions for technical safety improvements on Dutch beam trawlers, Paper submitted to the Second International Symposium on Safety and Working Conditions aboard Fishing Vessels, Bamio, Spain, Sep. 1992. 24. Such as beach seining, extracting fish from shallow-water set nets, tidal stopnets, fishing and collecting "seed" fry for aquaculture while wading in mangrove channels, estuaries, backwaters, tidal flats and other shallows, diving and collecting sea cucumbers and molluscs, harvesting seaweed, diving for lobsters, pearl shells and trochus, commercial spear gun fishing, as well as undertaking such illicit practices as fish poisoning and fishing with explosives. 25. Ben-Yami, op. cit. 26. National Research Council et al.: Fishing vessel safety: Blueprint for a national program (Washington, DC, 1991). 27. Ben-Yami, op. cit. 28. Ben-Yami, op. cit. 29. Ben-Yami, op. cit. 30. Dr. A. Smith, FAO, personal correspondence (1999). 31. J. Poggie, R. Pollnac and S. Jones: "Perceptions of vessel safety regulations: A southern New England fishery, in Marine Policy (Oxford, Elsevier Science Ltd.), Vol. 19, No. 5, 1995. 32. Ben-Yami, op. cit. 33. J.M. Barrey: Payment method and safety, Paper submitted to the Second International Symposium on Safety and Working Conditions aboard Fishing Vessels, Bamio, Spain, Sep. 1992. 34. J.P. Bloch: Links between the catch-share payment system of seamen in the artisanal fishing sector and their safety and working conditions: Some examples in Normandy, Paper submitted to

the Second International Symposium on Safety and Working Conditions aboard Fishing Vessels, Bamio, Spain, Sep. 1992. 35. M. Binkley: "Modern fisheries risk -- Physical, economic and social considerations ", Proceedings of the International Symposium on Safety and Working Conditions aboard Fishing Vessels, Rimouski, Canada, Aug. 1989. 36. Maritime Safety Committee Circular MSC/Cir.813/MEPC/Circ.330. 37. Annex I, Fatigue, of IMO: Report of the joint session of the Joint MSC/MEPC Working Groups on the Human Element and on Formal Safety Assessment, 70th Session of the Maritime Safety Committee (London, doc. MSC 70/13, 9 June 1998). 38. B. Marugn Pintos: Industrial accidents in the fishing sector, Paper submitted to the Second International Symposium on Safety and Working Conditions aboard Fishing Vessels, Bamio, Spain, Sep. 1992. 39. M. Binkley: Risks, dangers, and rewards in the Nova Scotia offshore fishery (Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995). 40. M. Andro and Y. Le Roy: Problems in introducing new technology to fishery, Paper submitted to the Second International Symposium on Safety and Working Conditions aboard Fishing Vessels, Bamio, Spain, Sep. 1992. 41. R.D. Coton: Fishing vessel safety -- The insurer's perspective (London, Shipowners' P&I Club, 1999), unpublished. 42. Binkley, Risks, dangers, and rewards ..., op. cit. 43. Ben-Yami, op. cit. 44. This problem may also be related to certification requirements for skippers and other fishermen, i.e. when the vessel is designed so that when measured by length or volume (gt/grt) it is just below the size requiring a certified captain, engineer, etc. 45. This description of Reason's model draws considerably from M. Ayeko: Causes & contributing factors -- Analysis of accidents involving fishing vessels in Canada (Transportation Safety Board of Canada, 1999), unpublished paper. 46. Coton, op. cit. 47. D. Nixon, R. Moran and C. Philbrick (eds.): "Self-insurance programmes in the commercial fishing industry", Workshop summary report, National Workshop on Fishing Vessel Insurance and Safety, in Marine Advisory Bulletin, No. 31, July 1987, at

48. ibid. 49. B. Gristwood: "Views from the UK insurance market", in Nixon et al., op. cit. 50. Binkley, op. cit. 51. Coton, op. cit. 52. J. Cervera Hernndez: Renting as a vector to explain safety levels, Paper submitted to the Second International Symposium on Safety and Working Conditions aboard Fishing Vessels, Bamio, Spain, Sep. 1992. 53. Based on ILO: Accident Prevention, a Worker's Education Manual (Geneva, 1983) as reported by D. Appave, in "The role of the ILO in the improvement of safety and working conditions aboard fishing vessels", Proceedings of the International Symposium on Safety and Working Conditions aboard Fishing Vessels, Rimouski, Canada, Aug. 1989. 54. WorkSafe Western Australia, WorkSafe Statistics, Bulletin No. 83/97 at safetyline/sowe/ws_stats/ws_8397.html

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