It is fair to say that impact on safety of fishing vessels at sea has not generally been to the forefront when Government has contemplated new fisheries legislation. In retrospect, however, it has been possible to discern that management measures can carry with them direct and significant adverse safety implications, as an unintended consequence of those decisions. In particular, we have seen the size and shape of fishing vessels change, and vessels used for purposes that they were not designed for, in the wake of, and to adapt to new legislation. This note is a plea for safety considerations to be an integral part of the process of designing fisheries management measures, not an afterthought.
Measures and their consequences
Measures that give particular cause for concern are those which:
⦁ Significantly reduce profitability – the link between profitable and safe fishing vessels is well established
⦁ Create strong boundary issues, with favourable incentives to be on one side of the line rather than the other; we have seen this feature very clearly with the boundary at 10 meters
⦁ Limitations on time at sea increase the likelihood that a vessel will remain at sea (or go to sea) in adverse weather conditions; and increase the dangers associated with fatigue. Pressures to maximize profit during the period an individual vessel is permitted to go to sea, is also a feature of systems that limit time at sea.
Fishing Industry Safety Group
I am strongly of the view that in future, all fisheries legislation should be vetted by the UK’s Fishing Industry Safety Group, where fishing industry and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency can jointly assess and comment on the safety implications of each measure and suggest mitigation measures where necessary.