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The Fishermen's Mission fights poverty and despair in our fishing communities by providing emergency and welfare support to fishermen and their families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Over 13,000 men and women work in the UK's toughest and most dangerous peacetime occupation: deep sea fishing. At sea, they face death and injury on a daily basis. On land, many face insecurity and debt. And life for the 50,000 retired fishermen and their dependants is no better, with debt, inadequate pensions and scant savings meaning no respite from hardship once the fishing's over.
All occupations have their hazards but no peacetime occupation is as hazardous as deep sea fishing. A recent study of 200 fishermen in the South West of England found that over 25% of the men interviewed had been taken ashore as an emergency case at least once. The most common reasons given were multiple injuries, fractures and traumatic amputations. Shockingly, one on four had sustained injuries, mainly lacerations, sprains and strains during the previous twelve months.
Injuries threaten to cut short careers or at best enforce a long lay-off. If you don't fish, you don't earn and a family can quickly fall into debt. Access to immediate and effective treatment may mean an accelerated return to work.
The Seamen's Hospital Society, a partner maritime charity, has been funding a pilot project in Newlyn providing fishermen with the physiotherapy hey need to get them back to work. The results have been encouraging and we will be working with the Society to extend the scheme to other ports.
Our ultimate aim is to improve safety and keep emergencies to a minimum but in the mean time our port staff and volunteers are on hand day and night to provide support to sick and injured fishermen as and when required.
Inshore and deep sea commercial fishing remains the UK’s most dangerous peacetime occupation. Fishermen are 115 times more likely to suffer a fatal accident than the rest of the workforce.
There has been no noticeable reduction in the fatal accident rate in the UK fishing industry in the last 30 years. As the fatal accident rates in all other occupations have fallen sharply during the same period in relative terms commercial fishing has become progressively more hazardous.
According to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch many fatal accidents are caused by men not wearing life jackets and fishing alone. Fishing alone is often a result of the quota system. Income is insufficient to provide a living for more than one man.
EU imposed fishing quotas are a contentious issue and a source of great anxiety for working fishermen.
Fishermen find life jackets too cumbersome to work in. The Mission came up with an acceptable alternative: buoyancy oilskins.
If fishermen don’t wear life jackets, then buoyancy oilskins are the next best thing. They cost £95; not a huge amount of money but seen as an unnecessary expense by fishermen who take home less than the minimum wage. They’re more worried about paying their debts and feeding their families than they are about safety. So we supply the oilskins to the fishermen most in need. If you would like to support the initiative and help save a life, you can by donating today.
Poverty and debt are facts of life in our fishing communities. At best, fishing can be a precarious business. Success depends on a host of factors from the weather to fluctuating fish prices to ever tightening quotas. Worst hit have been the men of the inshore fleet. Many barely scrape a living. Many are in serious debt.
Debt and poverty can lead to homelessness, marital breakdown, alcohol abuse and depression. Problems made worse by the prevalence of injury and ill-health amongst working fishermen. Chronic ill-health and debt are also serious problems for ex-fishermen and their families. Retired fishermen are more likely than any other occupational group to be living in poverty.
Our network of port welfare staff and volunteers in over 70 ports works to alleviate these problems by:
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