It is said that from small acorns big oaks grow. Nothing could be truer of the Plymouth City Council (PCC) PFD and personal locater beacon (PLB) scheme rolled out by Councillor Tudor Evans OBE.

Looe RNLI coxswain and fishermen’s safety expert Clive Palfrey met with Tudor Evans in 2015 to explain that if fishermen were equipped with PFDs with PLBs, lives could be saved. The councillor wasted no time in setting PCC the task of applying for an MMO grant. It was awarded, and the roll-out began.

Other ports followed with their own initiatives, and within a few years so did the UK government, making it a regulatory requirement.

Then Yihsien Chiu, a counsellor at the Taiwan Fisheries Agency, based in the Taiwanese Department of Agriculture, saw coverage of the Plymouth roll-out and got in touch.

“It was great to see what a few people could do to bring better safety to their fishermen and fleets. I instantly knew that we had to try and replicate this programme for our fishermen and provide a lifejacket they could work in – not just the ones to abandon ship,” he said.

“Working with my government, we secured funding and have rolled out free lifejackets to more than 70% of our 20,000 distant-water fleet crew. With more funding allocated we should be at 100% in 2024.

“We salute Councillor Evans and Clive Palfrey for the groundbreaking work they did – it inspired us to do our own work to keep our fishermen safe too. They really were pioneers.”

Councillor Tudor Evans told Fishing News: “There can be no doubt when Clive Palfrey brought the idea of a Plymouth lifejacket scheme to me he had aspirations that if we could do this in Plymouth, others would follow, and lives would be saved. But the idea that the project would have traction and see other countries pick up on our little project and run with it, I am sure was not even something we even dreamed of. To be honest, Brixham and Newlyn were about the scope of what we thought success would look like beyond Plymouth.

“It is fantastic to know that because of the work Plymouth City Council, Clive, local fishers and their families did, in oceans across the world, fishers there too are safer now.

“Our project started with me putting a Motion on Notice to the council – my party wasn’t in charge at the time, so I had to take it to full council and win votes over to support it. It was a challenging meeting, but in the end we prevailed, and the council was then committed to delivering it. Clive spent a lot of time making sure we found the right lifejackets and encouraging fishers to sign up, and council staff set about applying for grant funding from the MMO.”

Councillor Evans told FN that he was grateful to the MMO for approving what was at the time a pioneering project.

“With the funding approved, Clive started the roll-out and we never looked back. A second roll- out happened a year later, and in total we supplied 250 jackets to the local fleet. Others followed with similar schemes and a groundswell was born, focusing on fishers’ safety, until finally government required PFDs by regulation.

“Yihsien saw posts and reports of the Plymouth scheme on Twitter and got in touch with one of the team, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“All this from an initial project for 150 jackets in Plymouth – it’s remarkable.”

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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