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Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 16:03 GMT
Fishing labelled 'most dangerous job'
Spanish trawler Sonia in storm
An estimated 24,000 fishermen die each year
Fishing at sea may be the most dangerous occupation in the world, according to a United Nations report.

An average of 70 fishermen lose their lives every day, says the report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), published in Italy.

Trawlermen
Even in developed countries, fatalities remain high
The study, based on estimates from the International Labour Organisation, says at least 24,000 lives are lost every year.

The true figure could be even higher, as not all countries keep reliable statistics.

One of the single biggest catastrophes was in 1996 when, in one night alone, 1,400 fishermen died in a cyclone off the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

They had put to sea in inadequate boats, unaware that the devastating storm was about to hit.

Fishing deaths
Italy - 21 times national average
US - 25 to 30 times national average
Australia - 18 times national average
The report says 15 million people around the world make their living from fishing and, although demand for fish has risen dramatically over the past decades, that increase is likely to come to a halt because of dwindling supplies.

Nearly all fishermen - about 97% - work on small boats less than 24m long.

The report says the risks are growing as fishermen are sailing further and further away from shore - often for long periods in inadequate boats - because inshore waters have been over-fished.

And even countries which have stepped up safety regulations are not necessarily managing to reduce the death toll.


It seems that, as vessels are made safer, operators take greater risks in their ever-increasing search for good catches

UN report
"It seems that, as vessels are made safer, operators take greater risks in their ever-increasing search for good catches," the report said.

Many fishermen are also inexperienced, and know little about key issues like navigation, weather forecasting and communications.

Problems are compounded because international legal measures on safety at sea have yet to be adopted, says the report.

"Many of these causes can be rectified and FAO is involved in a number of such activities in the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific," FAO expert Jeremy Turner said.

In developed countries, rapid progress in vessel and fishing technologies and the application of more stringent regulations have not always led to a significant decrease in fatalities.

"It seems that, as vessels are made safer, operators take greater risks in their ever-increasing search for good catches," the report points out.

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See also:

07 Jun 00 | South Asia
Indian fishermen in dangerous waters
24 Jan 01 | Europe
Emergency ban to save cod
12 Jan 00 | Scotland
Fishing safety back in the spotlight
16 Jan 00 | Scotland
Tears and prayers for lost fishermen
27 Sep 00 | Africa
West African fishing under threat
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