The first of 5,000 bespoke life-jackets to be produced for Scotland’s fishermen as part of a £438,000 life-saving safety project has been officially handed over to the fishing industry by First Minister Alex Salmond.
During a visit to Anstruther Harbour ahead of his appearance at the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation’s 40th anniversary celebrations, the First Minister inspected the prototype personal floatation device that will be given to every commercial fisherman in Scotland who completes the correct safety certification.
Mr Salmond also used his visit to urge all of Scotland’s fishermen to “stay safe on the seas” by signing up for the scheme and receiving the free life jacket as part of ongoing efforts to drive up safety standards in an industry that faces dangerous conditions every working day of the year.
The life-jacket initiative, led by the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation, was launched earlier this year to encourage fishermen to wear personal floatation devices and raise awareness of the importance of safety in the industry. It is funded by £306,000 from the Scottish Government and European Fisheries Fund and £132,000 from the federation via the Scottish Fisherman’s Trust and the UK Fisheries Offshore Oil & Gas Trust Fund.
The First Minister said: “Scotland’s fishing heritage is extremely rich and for generations, the industry has worked on the seas around our coast providing a cornerstone of employment in dozens of communities the length of the country.
“Today in Scotland, the industry contributes £500 million to the economy, accounting for 5,000 frontline fishing jobs and more than 5,000 jobs onshore. As part of a modern, forward-thinking sector it is vital that fishermen adhere to the highest standards of safety, to ensure that those who brave the often very dangerous conditions on Scotland’s seas are able to return home to their loved ones at the end of their trip.
“Working in the fishing industry inevitably carries risks, and that is why this pioneering life-jacket initiative I am supporting today is so important. By encouraging our fishermen to think about health and safety during their work and wear life-saving equipment such as these new devices, we can reduce the tragic accidents that unfortunately do still happen while out on the seas.
“I am therefore absolutely delighted to officially hand over the very first of the 5,000 life-jackets that are being made available to every fisherman in the country. I would urge everyone in the industry to sign up for this vital project, get their free life jacket and stay safe on the seas.”
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said: “The fishermen that put the seafood on our tables work in an inherently challenging environment. We are committed to improving safety at sea and this is why we are pushing forward this initiative that will encourage fishermen to wear personal flotation devices while working on open deck. Our other desire is to raise the overall awareness and instigate a discussion of the importance of safety within the industry.”
Under the scheme, every fisherman in Scotland with the correct mandatory safety certification will be eligible to apply for a free personal floatation device and encouraged to wear one while working at sea.
The devices will be distributed by project partners Marine Scotland, RNLI, Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, Ocean Safety and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency. Alongside the Scottish Fisherman’s Federation, these organisations will also participate in road shows, offering safety advice to the industry.
Fishermen can apply for their free personal floatation device via an application form that can be downloaded on the SFF website (www.sff.co.uk).
To be eligible, fishermen must possess their full mandatory certification and the fishing licence on their vessel must be administered by Marine Scotland.
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