We have heard of stories of fishers getting injured, falling ill or dying at sea. The cause of these incidents can be related to health, boating accidents and weather conditions that fishers experience while at sea.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation about 1000 fishers die at sea every year. Small-scale fishers are probably the most vulnerable to injury and deaths as their equipment is primitive compared to industrial fishers.
Unfortunately there is currently no labour standards and basic conditions of employment that accommodates the needs for safety at sea in the Small Scale fisheries sector.
While the government recognises that Small Scale fishers contribute to the Road Accident Fund but are not covered for accidents at sea, Masifundise will make it its duty to inform and educate small-scale fishers about safety at sea.
Below are precautions that can be taken by fishers while at sea to lower risks of injury and death.
- Boat builders should be obliged to provide information on the loading capacity of each boat they construct by painting the maximum number of people or weight which the boat can carry, on the boat.
- Boat users should practise regular maintenance – engine maintenance and repair — of their fishing boats.
- Fishing vessels should be equipped with radio or satellite communication for services ashore that provide medical advice.
- Fishers must have access to reliable/meaningful weather forecasts.
- Fishers are to be provided with special plastic bags so that they can take their mobile phones with them when going fishing.
- Vessels should display navigation lights, flags and balloons required by the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (IRPCS).
- The use of any fishing gear or tool whose propelling force results from the detonating power of a chemical substance or from artificially compressed gas is prohibited.
- Hygienic, sanitary, handling and processing requirements should be observed when dealing with a catch.
- At the very least one person on board must be qualified or trained in first aid and must be capable of using the medical equipment.
- Fishers under the age of 18 are to be the joint responsibility (safety and health) of fishing vessel owners, fishers and others.
- The majority of accidents at sea are caused by saltwater crocodile attacks. Crocodiles are regarded as sacred beings and are subject to respect, to specific taboos and prescriptions.
- Fishers must be trained to handle the fishing gear they will use, and comprehend the fishing operations they will engage in.
Safety at sea should be promoted at all times, so that fishers may enjoy a long and prosperous career.