A meeting involving groups representing fishermen from all four administrations in the UK took place with the MCA last week, including representatives from NUTFA, the NFFO, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF), the Northern Ireland Fishermen’s Federation (NIFF) and the Welsh Fishermen’s Association.

The meeting, held to discuss the introduction of new medical requirements across the entire fishing sector, also included representation from the Fishermen’s Mission. However, the discussions about industry concerns over the current plans for certification by the end of November failed to make any discernible progress.

Derek Cardno, safety officer for the SFF, told Fishing News: “Parts of the meeting were very constructive. Industry representatives put a strong case forward that medicals were never brought in to have a negative effect on fishermen’s health and wellbeing.

“We remain committed to seeing existing fishermen being recognised as able to do their jobs safely while utilising the grandfather rights in terms of being issued a medical certificate.

“SFF hopes that the MCA works with industry to find a solution to the current situation, with a strong and clear message to those remaining fishermen who require a medical to utilise the grandfather rights before 30 November. If fishermen delay seeking their medical after this date, they won’t be eligible for grandfather rights, so SFF strongly encourages fishermen to come forward before then.”

Speaking to FN after the meeting, NFFO safety officer Charles Blyth said: “At the request of the MCA, the NFFO has been actively encouraging fishermen to go for a medical examination.We have developed and implemented our own guide explaining the process, and have undertaken harbour visits to meet and inform fishermen.

“The experience to date has led to fishermen having profound concerns about the process. In the last six months, as the inshore fleet became aware of the requirement, we have identified a number of issues, concerning grandfather rights, particularly for single-handed vessels, the appeals process, and the lack of availability of GPs willing to undertake ML5 examinations.

“We were disappointed at the lack of tangible progress made at the meeting. We raised a series of concerns about the implementation of the current proposals, and stressed that as they stand, they are creating a huge amount of concern across wide swathes of the industry, and are seriously impacting fishermen’s welfare.”

NIFF said after the meeting: “Fishermen’s health is important, so the MCA would do far better to continue working with industry to get this right, than it would to push through poor policy just to meet deadlines.”

A Mission spokesperson said: “The Fishermen’s Mission has observed a growth in anxiety across the fishing community, and recognises that many fishermen are very concerned by what they are hearing about medical certification and what constitutes a pass or fail, when it comes to ML5, and the consequences.

“SeaFit has also been fortunate to have been able to bring some GPs to the quayside, and is in discussion about ML5 examinations for some fishermen. We wish we could offer that service in every port.

“Through these events, it has become apparent that the ML5 requirement is not well understood. SeaFit has attempted to share information and ‘spread the word’, but fishermen are seeking a greater clarity as to the pass/fail criteria, the potential restrictions that might be placed upon them, and the impact that will have on their ability to work.

“Even some of the better-informed have indicated that they do not fully understand the requirement, nor what ‘grandfather rights’ truly means.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

Read the MCA’s recent statement here

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