Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

The fishing fleet in Northern Ireland will benefit from a new Fishing First Safety Management project from The Seafarers’ Charity.

The Northern Ireland Fishing First project is set to benefit fishing vessel owners and crew in Northern Ireland. The project is led by Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation (ANIFPO) and Northern Ireland Fish Producers’ Organisation (NIFPO).

This new project from The Seafarers’ Charity builds on the 2021 Fishing First Safety Management project in the Southwest of England which improved the safety management practices of 50 fishing vessels. Fishing First Safety Management is a bespoke auditable safety management system for a fishing vessel which evidences compliance with legislation in respect of the management of health, safety and welfare onboard the vessel.

The project makes use of the Safety Folder to build an onboard safety management system which can be audited. The bespoke nature of the service makes it suitable for all vessel sizes and gear types. This new project in Northern Ireland will audit up to 30 vessels’ safety management systems.

In an addition to the original South West project, the Northern Ireland project will focus on increasing supply chain transparency for retailers and develop and test a new country-wide mechanism to identify and manage crew grievances.

The Seafarers’ Charity underwrote the cost of delivering this project prior to full funding being confirmed. The Charity will be managing payments and communications, as well as leading a consultative committee consisting of representatives from industry, seafood retailers, funders and others. The project also includes on-the-ground support from Seafish who will coordinate meetings of an industry implementation group in Northern Ireland. The first implementation group meeting was hosted by the ANIFPO at Kilkeel Harbour and saw fishing vessel owners and fish producer organisations meet with the Safety Folder to discuss how the service will be developed and delivered in Northern Ireland.

Funding for the project has been provided by ANIFPO, NIFPO, Kilkeel Seafoods, Fishmongers’ Company’s Fisheries Charitable Trust and the Seafood Ethical Action Alliance (SEAA), which is a consortium of retailers and seafood businesses concerned with human rights abuses in the global seafood supply chain.

Andy Hickman, Head of SEA Alliance Programme spoke about why they decided to fund this new project:

‘The SEA Alliance Change on the Water Fund aims to support projects in our member company supply chains that positively impact the human rights and labour standards of fishers. We welcome the fact that the Northern Irish fishing industry is seeking to develop improved grievance processes for fishers, and that they have committed to involving crew themselves in the development of these, alongside vessel owners and supply chain actors. Our 30 member companies, made up of leading retailers and seafood businesses, recognise that we have a responsibility to contribute to improvement work in the supply chains that produce our seafood.’

Alan McCulla,OBE, Chief Executive of ANIFPO said:

‘We want to develop a grievance reporting system within this project as we want to take action to improve the welfare and working conditions of our crew (many of whom are migrant workers). We recognise we need to make it easier to hear from them about any concerns and that this can help us to respond and ensure a safe and decent working environment for everyone.’

This project’s objective is to make fishing safer for all by ensuring vessels operate legally and crew have access to decent work. This includes ensuring decent living and working conditions, maintaining appropriate labour standards and support for the human rights of all crew.

Ultimately, fishing remains the highest risk industry in the UK, and despite many initiatives and the implementation of ILO C188 there remains an unacceptable level of accidents, fatalities and welfare issues. The Seafarers’ Charity is committed to improving safety in the UK fishing fleet. The charity supports the Fishing First Safety Management System as a proven auditable safety management method which adheres to an international standard and can be utilised by fishing vessels and crews of all sizes. Taking forward this new Fishing First project in Northern Ireland is an important step for the Charity in expanding the service to the entire UK fishing fleet.