Fishing Sector Action Plan marks growing partnership for safety

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 41, September 2012

The Fishing Sector Action Plan was jointly launched in August by the Minister of Labour and the Associate Transport Minister at Queens Wharf, in Wellington.
Steve Mayree
Maritime New Zealand ©2019
The Fishing Sector Action Plan was launched on the fishing vessel Steve Mayree.

Widespread support for the plan reflects the industry’s desire to reduce the rate of injuries and fatalities, MNZ General Manager Maritime Services, Sharyn Forsyth said.

The plan was prepared by MNZ in partnership with FishSAFE, and with the support of the Accident Compensation Corporation and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

FishSAFE is a fishing industry-led government partnership that aims to improve safety in the commercial fishing sector in New Zealand. It was set up in 2004 and is supported by MNZ, the Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) and the Accident Compensation Corporation.

“Building on the foundation created by FishSAFE, the plan represents a partnership between the government, employers and employees to make the industry safer,” said Ms Forsyth.

“The fishing industry has worked constructively to improve safety, particularly in the in-shore fleet. While there is still work to be done, this partnership forms a strong foundation for success.”

Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in New Zealand. Nearly 7.5 percent of the approximately 7,000 workers in the industry are injured in accidents each year – nearly twice the percentage for the nearest sector (mining and quarrying). Between 2001 and 2011, 33 fishermen were killed doing their job.

The plan introduces a number of initiatives to improve safety, by:

  • „„improving crew competency, including proposed updates to the Qualifications and Operational Limits (QOL) framework „„
  • ensuring maritime rules about vessels and equipment lead to improved safety „„
  • introducing a proposed new Maritime Operator Safety System (MOSS) „„
  • getting better information on risks and injuries in the industry
  • „„improving communication to people in the fishing industry.

“What the safety system emphasises is that safety is something that must be considered every day. It is not just a case of ensuring a vessel is safe when it is surveyed, the operator has a responsibility to make sure the operation as a whole is safe,” said Ms Forsyth.

Minister Wilkinson said all workers had the right to do their jobs in safety.

“People working in the fishing industry are exposed to a wide range of hazards. Their work can be physically demanding, the hours long and the maritime environment provides an element of unpredictability to the workplace,” said Minister Wilkinson.

“It’s critical that any plan aimed at reducing the accident toll in the fishing industry takes that environment into account – that’s why the Fishing Sector Action Plan focuses on making sure fishermen are appropriately qualified and fishing vessels are appropriate for the work they do.

“There is no excuse for anyone to be put in danger, suffer serious injury or lose their life while on the job,” said Minister Wilkinson.

Associate Minister Bridges said last month’s introduction of changes to Maritime Rule 40D, relating to vessel and equipment design and construction, showed that important steps are already being taken to put this plan into action.

“The social cost of workplace harm in the fishing sector is too high to ignore. We are working to improve safety across the maritime industry by bringing in a clear, logical and flexible safety management system that can adapt to changes in the industry while ensuring safe operations.”

“MOSS and QOL and other changes being introduced will give operators more flexibility to meet their safety obligations, while ensuring greater transparency and accountability to MNZ for safe operations.”

Doug Saunders-Loder, President of the New Zealand Federation of Commercial Fishermen, said the industry welcomed the three-year plan.

“Commercial fishing is by its very nature a dangerous occupation and while our industry has taken steps to reduce the risks, the action plan provides a further practical framework that is targeted on specific areas like vessel safety improvements, better understanding of risks and lifting crew competency,” he said.

Chairman of the New Zealand Rock Lobster Industry Council, Andrew Branson, said “we acknowledge and accept responsibility for our own safety at sea in the same way that we do for managing sustainable utilisation of our rock lobster fisheries resources.

“The Fishing Sector Action Plan provides our industry with a framework and tools to enable a greater level of self-management. This in turn further aligns the New Zealand rock lobster industry with an over-arching fishing industry strategy of ‘managing our own ship’,” said Mr Branson.

Chief Executive of the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council Peter Bodeker said the partnership approach was critical to the success of the plan.

“The plan has actively involved the industry through FishSAFE...This shared leadership approach between industry and government is key to ensuring real and sustainable changes are made to our industry’s health and safety performance.”

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