Session 3A – Policy and Regulation: Best Practices and Initiating Change

Monday, June 11, 1:45pm -3:15pm, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1049


3A.1  An anthropological study of safety, regulation and fishermen’s work practiceTrine Thorvaldsen, SINTEF Ocean

Due to a high number of accidents compared to other occupations, fishing is considered a dangerous profession. In the period 1990-2015, more than 300 Norwegian fishermen have lost their lives.

Based on anthropological fieldwork, including participant observation on board fishing vessels and interviews with fishermen and authorities, different understandings of safety are explored. Both the authorities’ strategies to reduce risk and the fishermen’s perceptions of risk and efforts to stay safe are studied. Theoretical perspectives on risk, knowledge and practice constitute the analytical framework.

Historically, sustainable management of fishery resources has been a main objective for the regulation of fisheries. In recent years however, regulation of fishermen’s personal safety has also increased. The regulation introduced by the Norwegian Maritime Authority is seen in light of international legislation and the development of health, environment and safety (HES) in other industries. Laws, rules, inspections, requirements for training, and informational campaigns stand out as important strategies to reduce the number of accidents. Regulation and compliance thus appear prominent in the authorities understanding of safety.

Fishermen commonly say they do not worry about accidents. Previous studies have argued that they minimalize, deny or under communicate the dangers they face as a coping strategy. Observation of everyday life on board fishing vessels show that fishers do many things to stay safe at sea. They underline the importance of common sense and taking precautions as important safety measures. Through experience and participation, fishermen learn how to work safely. Fishermen’s understanding of safety is thus related to their work experience, and feeling safe.

Based on these findings, the presentation argues that a one-sided focus on safety as compliance to regulations may end up overlooking what fishermen actually do to feel safe.


3A.2  Nudges to improve the take-up of voluntary training amongst fishersSimon Potten, Sea Fish Industry Authority (Presentation slides).

Fishing is a dangerous occupation. The fatality rate in the UK fishing industry is 190 times higher than the UK all-industry average and six times higher than the next most dangerous industry (waste and recycling). The UK’s Fishing Industry Safety Group recognises that training has a key role to play in its strategy to improve fishing safety, yet most fishers require little more than basic safety training. Only skippers of fishing vessels 16.5m (54ft) in length and above are required to undertake additional training to gain the competencies required for the safe management and operation of their vessel and its crew. Almost 90% of the UK’s commercial fishing fleet is less than 16.5m (almost 5,000 fishing vessels). We believe that anyone in charge of a commercial fishing vessel should be trained (to an appropriate level) in its safe operation, even if working single-handed. So in 2008 we launched a voluntary qualification (the Seafish Under 16.5m Skipper Certificate) comprising short courses in navigation, engineering, stability and radio operation. We knew that persuading fishers to voluntarily give up their time (and earnings) to attend training would be challenging. Funding was secured to enable us to offer the training free-of-charge, but we knew from experience that this would not be enough. Unable to support our initiative with new regulation, the UK’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency instead recognised our qualification as equivalent to what it requires for small commercial vessel operations, giving holders the opportunity to supplement their income from fishing by undertaking other activities. It was this nudge that persuaded fishers to come forward in large numbers. Ten years on more than 4,500 have attended training and more than 2,500 have completed the full qualification. Not only has this initiative improved safety in this sector, but it has also professionalized its workforce.


3A.3  Gender mainstreaming and issues of occupational health and safety: Learnings from developing the FAO Handbook on Gender-equitable Small-scale Fisheries and Governance and DevelopmentNilanjana Biswas, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (Presentation slides).

This presentation draws upon the substantial experience of the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) with women in small-scale fisheries in developing countries. It discusses the health and safety challenges that women in the sector face and consequently, demonstrates how the definition of occupational health and safety must go beyond being merely an operations-driven one to one that includes issues such as lack of hygiene, sexual harassment and violence, theft, and safety risks that are not only intrinsic to women’s post-harvest work but also carry long-term health impacts. It argues that conventional definitions of occupational health and safety tend to be narrow and restrictive, and consequently gender-related health and safety concerns of women in fisheries fail to receive adequate attention from both policy makers and fishing communities. In particular, conditions in fish trade, where large numbers of women are employed, are often left out of discussions on health and safety.

The adoption of the historic VGSSSF (Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication) Guidelines, which notably addressed issues of gender mainstreaming in small-scale fisheries, followed by implementation-related efforts such as the development by the ICSF of the FAO Handbook for Gender-equitable Small-scale Fisheries and Governance and Development, highlight how discussions among women, and between women and other stakeholders, act as significantly empowering tools to address health and safety issues. Women’s individual and collective control over their lives is crucial to their long-term health.

Today, communities are recognised as important guardians of sustainable coastal and inland fishing practices, and women are often at the forefront. Women’s efforts to safeguard their health, local economy and ecology ensure sustainable fishing at the household and community level, as well as broader climate sustainability. These require support at multiple levels by all stakeholders in the fisheries.


3A.4  Supporting Behavioural change for ILO C188Robert Greenwood, National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (Presentation slides).

The Work in Fishing Convention is now a ratified convention of the ILO, and has been being prepared by the UK administration for a number of years, with the implementation in to UK law due around May 2018. I have worked within the UK’s working group on developing this legislation and have been impressed by the approach taken by Government in listening to industry and trying to prepare good law that isn’t a burden on industry and actively supports improving behaviours in Safety and Welfare.

More often than not laws are introduced without any meaningful preparation or understanding on how to comply with them, which often leaves a messy period post implementation as the accepted compliance is developed often following accidents and incidents. This reactive approach to compliance to legislation is not desirable and is something I have worked hard to avoid.

In 2009 I started development of a website for managing fishing vessels called, with the theory that there should be a free means by which to comply with legislation without the need for training. The site launched as a personal hobby project in 2012 and to date has had over 650 vessels registered. The main point of the site was to measure safety, by setting key performance indicators that are visible to the users, users are encouraged to complete measured activities. These activities include recording the Crew and their certificates, writing risk assessments and adding life saving equipment to the site. There are currently (Nov 2017): 665 vessels registered, 5947 Life Saving Appliances (LSA), 16,135 risks assessed, and approx. 12% of UK fleet registered.

Most important to the sites success is that it has no incentives to use it, no reward for use and no legal requirement either, so that when a fishing vessel is added or data is input, it is that of a positive behaviour towards safety and welfare management. This approach has to be carefully fostered and whilst it is easy to replicate the website in other countries its success is partly due to it being specific to the needs of the user. To support behavioural change the users must be involved to avoid confusion and ensure that their lives are made easier and potentially more profitable.

With the Work in Fishing Convention we have started to add new features so that every owner of a fishing vessel will be able to be compliant with the legislation prior to implementation. From Crew lists to Safety Committees, Risk assessments to Safe Operating Procedures, the site manages it all and makes it very easy for everyone to comply. By being an online resource it works on all computers and devices and cane be updated instantly for all users.

To underpin the Safety Folder the UK has produced a Fishing Safety Management Code. The Code allows for any Safety Management System to be compared and give support to first, second and third party audits.


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