Fishermen who survived storms tell cautionary tales in safety awareness campaign

IT was a beautiful and calm day as the Wicklow fishing vessel ‘MFV Lavicca’ headed out to sea on April 15 last with a three man crew.
Fishermen who survived storms tell cautionary tales in safety awareness campaign

But the boat suddenly jerked and the stern was quickly under water.

David Massey from Arklow, one of the crew, later recalled how his personal Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) issued Personal Flotation Device (PFD) lifejacket went off and the alarm was raised.

The next thing he heard was the sound of a helicopter.

Wicklow Lifeboat was also launched.

The fishing boat capsized and sank but the crew was rescued and taken to Tallaght Hospital.

“We were saved thanks to the GPS signal on my lifejacket and on the boat,” he said.

Mr Massey spoke about the events of that traumatic day when BIM recently launched its ‘Live To Tell the Tale’ campaign in the fishing port of Howth, Co Dublin.

It is urging all fishermen to wear their personal flotation device (PFD) lifejacket at all times at sea and to go to mandatory BIM safety survival training.

Research recently undertaken for BIM by Behaviour and Attitudes, the independent market research company, revealed more than 36% of fishermen personally know a colleague who has been lost at sea.

However, over half of these fishermen still do not wear a personal flotation device when on board their vessels.

The ‘Live to Tell the Tale’ campaign is looking to reverse this trend by promoting a behaviour change to motivate and encourage fishermen.

It wants them to take part in survival training and wear their personal flotation devices at all times while at sea.

The campaign is designed to be thought provoking and to make fishermen think of the terrifying consequences of not wearing a PFD lifejacket.

Fifty-three fishermen have lost their lives at sea over the last 10 years.

In 2015 alone, there were four fatal fishing-related accidents in the sector. However, there were no fatalities recorded in 2009.

Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Simon Coveney said the BIM campaign has a strong and hard-hitting message.

“I hope that fishing families across the country will get behind it and encourage their loved ones to wear their personal flotation devices when they head out on their boats to help ensure they return home safely.

“Our fishing industry is an integral part of our coastal communities and too many families have already suffered the loss of a family member to the sea,” he said.

Mr Coveney said he fully supports BIM’s safety training programme that not only delivers mandatory training to fishermen along the coast but new technology such as the compact PFD lifejacket that further increases survival rates in this dangerous occupation.

The minister, in a written Dáil reply to Fianna Fáil TD Dara Callerary in the Dáil last November, said the cross-department multiagency working group on safety, training and employment in the fIishing Industry had reported back to him last July.

It was chaired by Lt Cdr John Leech, chief executive, Irish Water Safety, and was set up to examine a range of important issues for Ireland’s fishing industry.

These included safety standards and training on board vessels, compliance with regulations, recent technical innovations and the fishing sector’s approach to personal safety.

The group was alsocharged with looking at options for making the fishing industry safer and more attractive, economically, as a career option for potential new entrants.

“Central to the working group’s recommendations on improving safety in the industry, is the need for significant culture change across the fisheries sector.

“I made an additional €5.6m available to the fisheries catching sector for training and skills development under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2014-2020 Operational Programme.

“This extra funding will be instrumental in addressing recommendations in the report and driving the culture change required to enhance safety across the fisheries sector,” he said.

BIM chief executive Tara McCarthy said the ‘Live to Tell the Tale’ campaign is crucial to improving the survival rate of those working in the fishing industry and providing their families with peace of mind each time they take to the seas.

“Fishing is an important industry in this country, directly employing over 3,500 people, and as the agency responsible for the provision of safety training, we are determined to make the sector as safe as possible.

“According to national figures, fishing is approximately 13 times more dangerous than construction and 36 times more dangerous than general employment.

Fishermen have to battle bad weather and hostile sea conditions which increase the risk of accidents. With this in mind, vital survival training and the necessary safety equipment worn correctly by all crew at all times is paramount.

“I would urge fishermen to complete their BIM safety training and wear their personal flotation device every time they go to sea — if not for themselves, for their families and loved ones,” she said.

The PFD with an integrated personal locatorbeacon (PLB) is a global positioning system (GPS) enabled lifejacket, available through BIM’s safetytraining programme.

It activates in the water, and means that fishermen can be found swiftly in the event of an accident and hopefully alive.

Traditional life jackets don’t use this technology with the result that searches at sea can last days longer than is necessary, adding to the anxiety felt by families of fishermen.

Safety training courses are available all year through BIM’s National Fisheries Colleges in Greencastle, Co Donegal, and Castletownbere, Co Cork, and onboard BIM’s mobile coastal training units.

The ‘Live to Tell the Tale’ safety awareness campaign was funded by the Government and is part-financed by the European Union.

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