Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

re-FISH is an initiative, run by the FISH Safety Foundation, a New Zealand based charity, dedicated to the safety of fishers at sea globally.

Fishing is recognised as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world with at least 32,000 fishing related deaths per year. In developing countries, this danger is often compounded by a general lack of safety equipment and fishers risk their lives daily going to sea without it.

re-FISH has been established to address this issue by collecting donations of re-usable fishing and safety gear from countries such as the UK, servicing and then sending them to select small scale fishing communities, where these items are in short supply and can make a significant difference.

In January 2020, re-FISH team members, along with our in-country partner, Patuakhali  Science and Technology University (PSTU), visited the villages of Alipur and Mahipur in the Patuakhali  District in Bangladesh and donations of wound care kits and sunglasses were distributed to local fishers.  These two small scale fishing sit adjacent to the Bay of Bengal and are the current focus for donations.

During the visit, it was noted that the fishers in these impoverished communities relied almost exclusively on fishing for their livelihoods and struggled to afford suitable basic safety equipment such as life jackets. The few observed were in poor condition. We were provided with anecdotal information from local community members that indicated that injuries, fatalities, and vessel losses at sea were disproportionally high for local fishers as they faced the many hazards in the Bay of Bengal.

Our donation process is transparent and not profit driven, with all donations going to Bangladesh. Any donated item that is past its expiry date, but otherwise in good condition, will be re-serviced and re-certified where appropriate by a qualified person. Specific items are targeted for donation including life jackets, flotation items, first aid equipment, distress beacons tools and ropes.

Donors are advised clearly of these requirements prior to donation and made aware that it is not an opportunity to simply dispose of waste items. re-FISH provides an environmental benefit to the UK, as donated items which may have otherwise been disposed of in landfill can be repurposed and then reused by fishing communities in the developing world.

In July 2021, the re-FISH ‘Road Trip’ at selected sites in the Southwest of England raised awareness of the initiative and sourced many more donations. Additionally, three permanent collection hubs were established at Brixham, and Teignmouth Harbour Masters and Turn Chapel  Wharf, Plymouth. The success of this road trip and the collection of many generous donations, means we now have more than enough safety gear and lifesaving equipment to fill a container for transport to Bangladesh over coming months.

Many thanks to our donors who we can name (below) and to those we can’t!