Jerry Percy, director of NUTFA, which represents under-10m vessels, has said that the MCA’s introduction of compulsory medical certification for fishermen has been ‘a fiasco from start to finish’.

On 29 November, 30 hours before the deadline by which all fishermen were supposed to be in possession of an ML5 or ENG1 medical certificate, the MCA made a number of limited changes to the rules.

On the eyesight requirements, which have now been relaxed to agreed international standards, Jerry Percy said that NUTFA had ‘argued vociferously’ that the choice to impose the more tringent test required for HGV drivers rather than the standard car-driver test was ‘a nonsense and unnecessary in the first place’.

“As we argued, you could drive a 3.5t van up the motorway in the dark and rain at 70mph, but you couldn’t take a 16-footer out of the harbour or off the beach – so that was a fundamental nonsense to start with,” he told Fishing News.

“The easing of the requirements will make some difference, because they were draconian.”

Jerry Percy continued: “No one should forget that the MCA made a conscious decision not only to implement these requirements when they didn’t need to, but also to demand the highest possible standards, akin to those required of airline pilots, for day-boat skippers and crews.

“My colleague Sarah Ready, who has really led the charge on this whole issue from day one, checked up with other European countries and found that the Irish government has chosen to impose them only on vessels over 15m, or those that spend more than 72 hours at sea.

“Additionally, they’ve added yet more stress to an already overburdened small-scale fleet. When your own GP writes ‘no concerns’ on the report, yet you are still penalised, the system is simply not fit for purpose.”

The last-minute extension of the deadline by which seasonal fishermen had to have a certificate came far too late to take away the pressure, he said.

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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