Jon Anthony, who fishes primarily with rod and line for bass out of Plymouth from his vessel Challenge, is awaiting a verdict from the MCA that will decide if he will be forced to look for a new job outside of fishing.

His worries stem from the requirements of the new MCA medical certificates that will become mandatory from the end of November this year.

Fishing industry representatives from all four UK administrations met with the MCA last week to discuss the issues around the requirements for medical certification.

Whilst there was consensus at the meeting about the principle of certification, considerable differences remained about the implementation of the requirements, and the best ways to maximise fishermen’s safety and welfare.

Jon Anthony told Fishing News: “I was in the army for six years after leaving school, even though before that time I’d been working on local boats, netting mainly, during my summer holidays.

“I was injured in the army in 1997, badly enough to need a series of operations on my back over the last 20 years. I have permanent damage that is now beyond repair. After the decision not to have any more operations, I worked out with my GP a long-term pain management strategy.

“I do manage the pain, and over the years, I’ve also adapted my fishing patterns to cope as well. The GP has been great in helping with this. I’ve switched from netting to rod and line fishing, mainly for bass, to reduce the need for me to be handling heavy anchors. I’ve moved my boat from the river Yealm to Plymouth, to reduce the need to be hauling boxes of fish up in difficult areas.

“Fishing is all I know as a job, and I’ve worked out very carefully how to continue working with the disability I have.

“The new medical certificate has had me worried stiff, which is why I decided to start the process early, rather than lose sleep and worry about this all the way to November. As I had to tick the box on the medical form about being on medication, I’ve had to be referred to the MCA assessor.

“Being quite frank, I found having to explain to the company undertaking the initial assessment – one recommended on the list from the MCA – the long-term strategy I’d planned carefully over a number of years. It was quite humiliating. It is like being treated like a child – like I hadn’t taken this seriously and worked through it all with health professionals already.

“It is really taking a toll on my wellbeing – the pain management I have developed with my GP doesn’t allow for waking up at night worrying about losing the ability to make my living at sea.

“I am very much hoping that the MCA sees sense and allows me through – but I’ll now have the ongoing worry every year that a different person next time won’t make the same decision. It seems entirely wrong that someone I have never met, who has no clue about my fishing, how I have set up my business and involved my GP, can make a decision on my future based on a filled-out form.

“I know others equally worried as me down here, on different medical issues, including an ex-rugby player, who is still all muscle, not fat, who now will have to pay every year for new assessments, as because of his BMI, he can only get a restricted certificate.

“We are all just hoping that the MCA will see sense, and develop a sensible interpretation of the certification process.”

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

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