12 December 2016

I Am Standing Up for ... Fisherman

Written by Anaïs Radonich Galvin, Posted in Fish Net Blog

I Am Standing Up for ... Fisherman

The life of a commercial fisherman has always been perilous and will continue to be so in many countries unless we do something about this.

Certainly commercial fishers are facing more risk in developing countries such as Bangladesh, India, Sri-Lanka, Pakistan and Indonesia. Many of these people are poor and uneducated and they have to go wide and far in vessels which are not adequately prepared to cope with roaring oceans and bad weather.

Of course the likelihood today is that they have to go further to search for the fish and this compounds the issue. For every extra minute that the trip takes; the risk is higher. Those of you that can recall seeing the movie, ‘The Perfect Storm’ will recollect how poorly equipped the fishing vessel was compared to the yacht and regrettably this is not unusual.

But even situations have occurred on land have seen fishermen die needlessly. One such occasion recently in Morocco saw thousands of people protest against police abuse after a fisherman was crushed to death in a garbage truck in an incident some are comparing to the death of a Tunisian vendor in 2010 that sparked the Arab spring uprisings.

According to Moroccan news website Le360.ma and magazine TelQuel, police in the northern town of Hoceima confiscated and destroyed swordfish belonging to a fisherman, Mouhcine Fikri, because it was not permitted to catch swordfish at this time of the year. Footage circulating online gives the appearance that Fikri jumped into the garbage truck to retrieve his fish as was crushed to death by the truck’s compactor. Fikri’s death prompted outrage on social media, and calls for protests in several cities over what is seen as police violence.

Just glancing through news posts here are a few examples of additional deaths which I am sure could have been avoided:

  • In Scotland in May a thirty six year old male died after his leg became snagged on a creel line being shot into the ocean from the boat – he was dragged into the sea and drowned.
  • In New Zealand just last month an investigation report on a 24 year old fisherman who was decapitated found that key safety rules weren't followed. He was decapitated aboard a purse seine fishing boat in August 14, 2014. The report said the vessel was operating in the Pacific Ocean, 650 nautical miles north of Samoa, when a nylon rope sling securing one end of the fishing net to the vessel broke. The weight of the net was then transferred to an approximately 48mm-diameter nylon rope called a safety choker line, which was designed to retain the net end if the rope sling failed. The crew rigged another rope to reduce the load on the safety choker line, and then continued to close the net around the tuna catch. Soon afterwards the safety choker line broke at a bowline knot that had been tied in the rope. It recoiled and struck Muir in the head. He died instantly. TAIC found that the safety choker rope broke because it was deteriorated, and was further weakened by the bowline knot that attached it to the net end.
  • Again in New Zealand (actually the same company) had experienced similar work place issues when they were found guilty of the same charge after a crewman died after falling 6.9m through an open hatch on the vessel  when the vessel was in port in New Zealand.
  • In India one State has announced an increase in the compensation to the kins of the deceased fisherman who dies while fishing. This was announced a few months back following the death of Manjunath Kharvi who had drowned. The problem was that his body was not found and as a result the compensation issue was in doubt. In the same accident seven fishermen were saved when they swam for nine hours straight after their boat capsized in the sea.
  • An investigation in Scotland earlier in the year revealed that a twin rig trawler was “a poorly run vessel”, issued with 137 deficiencies in the years prior to the death of Nuertey Annang. Nuertey was born in Ghana and was 47 years old. He died when a rope stopper parted and he was thrown “violently” overboard. At the time the vessel was around two miles east of Aberdeen harbor in Scotland when the incident happened. Despite searches, his body was never found. The investigation found that “The skipper and owners of the vessel consistently prioritized the catching of fish over the safety of the vessel and its crew. This resulted in the promotion of a poor safety culture.” It found that the crew, nor their vessel “had been adequately prepared to deal with such emergency situations.” Read more at http://www.ybw.com/news-from-yachting-boating-world/safety-failings-trawler-aquarius-led-fishermans-death-aberdeen-42919#TvxkolIRPSeRjsaO.99

In the USA this an old but nevertheless import report confirms an annual average of 58 reported deaths, it is worth a read at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5927a2.htm

In addition many fisher-folk are being held in jails in many countries due to illegal fishing charges. I make no excuses for Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing and clearly the crews must take some responsibility for being caught in illegal areas and fishing where they should not but in many cases we are not arresting the right people, the people who are organizing such activities.

An example happened recently in Pakistan. Mohan Jethiya Rathod from India had died in jail in October due to illness. Rathod was one of the seven crew members onboard a fishing boat which was seized by Pakistan Maritime Security Agency in the Arabian Sea on the charge of entering that country’s waters illegally in December 2015.

The Bay of Bengal is one of the roughest and toughest areas for fishing in that region of Asia. It appears that few, if any, safety measures are taken seriously by the authorities. Just recently I was asked to see what steps we could take for developing countries commercial fisherman's safety, training and for their livelihood. We do need to do something about this so I write this in the hopes that we can share some ideas and thoughts and come up with some outcomes that see a massive change in this area.

Hidden Truth

A good friend in the UK, Steve Bloy, wrote a novel, 'Hidden Truth' (https://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Truth-Stephen-Bloy/dp/184963789X ) it is all about the horrendous price that was paid by fishermen in the 19th century... and it seems not much has changed.

So few of these people have been trained and have little understanding about the dangers involved. If there are enough of us who feel and believe something must be done then I am sure we will be able to find ways and means to implement a plan. I welcome your feedback and interest.

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