A new guide to improving welfare standards on fishing vessels has been launched that clarifies key elements of UK legislation relating to the International Convention on Work in Fishing (C188).
The Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) – the umbrella charity for the Merchant Navy and UK fishing fleet – and The Fishermen's Mission produced the guide following some reports of alleged labour exploitation, in consultation with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Nautilus International and the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG).
It comes amid reports that migrant fishers suffer physical violence, often work 20-hour shifts for less than £3.50 an hour and are being recruited into the UK fishing industry on transit visas.
The guide outlines the legal welfare standards applicable to those working on fishing vessels. It is aimed at all those with an interest in commercial fishing, from vessel owners and skippers to crew from all nations and those in the maritime charity sector.
There are 15 different chapters that provide fishermen with support and advice on health and safety, contracts, money management, insurance, recruitment, medical advice and more.
Chief executive of the MNWB Stuart Rivers said: 'The fishing industry has come under huge amounts of scrutiny following reports of migrant fishers being treated like modern day slaves, which is utterly horrendous.
'There's no escaping the industry must clean up its act, and quickly. The publication of this guide is undoubtedly a step in the right direction in clarifying the rules and requirements of fishermen, to ensure safety and welfare of crews is of the highest standard. We all have a role to play, especially the MNWB as the National Seafarers' Welfare Board, in ensuring a real and positive difference to our hard-working fishermen is made.'
Chief executive of The Fishermen's Mission Marc Evans said: 'The International Convention has been a genuine game-changer in helping to improve safety and welfare for commercial fishermen since being entered into force for the UK in 2020.
'Our fishing sector represents more than 6,000 vessels and more than 12,000 fishermen and this guide helps everyone understand the legal welfare standards that are applicable to everyone in the industry and every fishing vessel.
'There is still much more we can do to drive out unacceptable shortcomings in welfare provision in our fishing vessels; this convention is explicit, and we all have a duty of care to each and every fisherman to bring about immediate change and provide working conditions that are safe and allow our people to feel safe in their place of work.'