Joint Campaign to Urge Fishermen to Wear Lifejackets announced by Marine Minister Coveney

BIM, the seafood development agency, Irish Water Safety, the statutory body established to promote water safety and the RNLI have joined forces to create an ongoing campaign to highlight the importance of wearing a lifejacket for fishermen.  The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, T.D. officially unveiled the series of initiatives today (Thursday 23 June 2011) onboard a fishing vessel in Howth Harbour.  The promotional awareness campaign will take place over the coming months and will involve targeted radio advertising, an online communications campaign and a safety team of specially trained BIM staff who will liaise directly with fishermen on the ground to encourage the use of lifejackets and also the correct wearing, care and maintenance of them.  To date in 2011, five fishermen have lost their lives at sea.

According to statistics from the Health & Safety Authority and BIM, the fatal accident rate in the general working population in Ireland over the last five years was 1.8 per 100,000 employed.  The comparable fatality rate for Irelands fishing sector stands at 88, making it 48 times more hazardous than other occupations. 

According to HSA/ BIM statistics, ‘Man overboard’ accounted for 27% of lives lost on Irish fishing vessels over the past ten years.   Wearing a suitable lifejacket is the single most effective measure a fisherman can take to increase survival if involved in a man-overboard accident at sea.

Speaking at today’s announcement, Minister Coveney said, “Irish fishermen often operate in hazardous weather conditions and the nature of the job means they are much more likely to be exposed to life-threatening situations at sea.  However, despite legislation in place since 2001 the fact remains that many fishermen choose not to wear a lifejacket and this situation cannot continue.  The reality is that wearing a life jacket could either save a life or in a worst case scenario mean a body is more likely to be found.  Fishermen need to think about their families and friends when going out to sea and wear a lifejacket.   The aim of this campaign is to get a sustained message out to fishermen and their loved ones on the importance of wearing a lifejacket when heading out to sea.”

Current RNLI statistics suggest that less than 35% of fishermen regularly wear a lifejacket.  Many fishermen feel that wearing a jacket inhibits their mobility and makes working on deck much more difficult.  Part of this awareness campaign will be highlighting that there is a lifejacket to suit all purposes and skippers and crew just need to consider the available options.  Research trials by the RNLI in the UK showed that Fishermen’s reluctance to wear a lifejacket decreased significantly when they were given a lifejacket suitable for their particular type of commercial fishing.  The Department of Transports, Marine Survey Office, the RNLI and Irish Water Safety have published information for fishermen on the selection of lifejackets. 

Ian Benham, Marine Safety Manager for the RNLI, said ‘Fishermen’s safety is a high priority for the RNLI and we have been working very closely with the industry over the last few years.  The harsh fact is that anyone who falls into the sea in Irish or UK waters is immediately at risk of drowning because of the body’s automatic reaction to sudden immersion in cold water.  If you’re not wearing something that can support you effectively, your chances of survival are dramatically reduced.  Without a lifejacket you can drown within 30 minutes, typically.  It’s important to find a Personal Flotation Device that suits your method of fishing, and to wear it when you’re working on deck.’

BIM is to launch a dedicated safety page on over the coming months.  The campaign is being supported by all of the leading fishing and aquaculture organisations and information will be distributed through their networks, ensuring sustained, targeted messages are reaching fishermen and fish farmers directly.