Two leading maritime charities have joined forces to help improve welfare standards on fishing vessels with the launch of a new guide following some reports of labour exploitation that have plunged the sector into disrepute.
The Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) and The Fishermen’s Mission – both based in Hampshire – have produced an easy-to-use guide that provides key elements of the UK legislation on the International Convention on Work in Fishing (C188).
It comes in the aftermath of reports that show migrant fishers suffering physical violence, working 20-hour shifts for less than £3.50 an hour and being recruited into the UK fishing industry on transit visas.
This new guide aims to inform and assist all those with an interest in commercial fishing, from vessel owners and skippers to crew from all nations and those in the maritime charitable sector, to understand the legal welfare standards applicable to those working on fishing vessels.
There are 15 different chapters that provide fishermen with much-needed support and advice on health and safety, contracts, money management, insurance, recruitment, medical advice and more.
Stuart Rivers, Chief Executive of the MNWB which is the umbrella charity for the Merchant Navy and UK fishing fleet which provides welfare support to seafarers, fishermen and their dependents, said:
“The fishing industry has come under huge amounts of scrutiny following reports of migrant fishers being treated like modern day slaves, which is utterly horrendous.
“There’s no escaping the industry must clean up its act, and quickly. The publication of this guide is undoubtedly a step in the right direction in clarifying the rules and requirements of fishermen, to ensure safety and welfare of crews is of the highest standard. We all have a role to play, especially the MNWB as the National Seafarers’ Welfare Board, in ensuring a real and positive difference to our hard-working fishermen is made.”
Marc Evans, Chief Executive of Fishermen’s Mission which specialises in supporting fishermen with financial and welfare aid, said:
“The International Convention has been a genuine game changer in helping to improve safety and welfare for commercial fishermen since being entered into force for the UK in 2020.
“Our fishing sector represents more than 6,000 vessels and more than 12,000 fishermen and this guide helps everyone understand the legal welfare standards that are applicable to everyone in the industry and every fishing vessel. There is still much more we can do to drive out unacceptable shortcomings in welfare provision in our fishing vessels; this convention is explicit, and we all have a duty of care to each and every fisherman to bring about immediate change and provide working conditions that are safe and allow our people to feel safe in their place of work.”
The guide was produced in consultation with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Nautilus International and the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG).
You can download the guide here