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BIM's campaign urges fishermen to wear GPS lifejackets at sea

January 23rd, 2016 7:25 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Michael Keatinge (left) from BIM, with Caitlin Uí Aodha (widow of Tit Bonhomme skipper Michael Hayes) and BIM board member, William Deasy.

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CASTLETOWNBERE is the location of a new water safety course for fishermen.

A total of 53 fishermen have lost their lives at sea over the last ten years and, with this in mind, fisheries board BIM has launched a national campaign to encourage seafarers to wear their lifejackets.

In 2015 alone, there were four fatal fishing related accidents in the sector. 

One of those backing the campaign is Caitlin Uí Aodha, herself a skipper, and whose husband Michael Hayes, was lost in the Tit Bonhomme fishing tragedy off Union Hall in 2012.

Against such stark statistics of death, Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Irish Sea Fisheries Board, has now unveiled its national advertising and public relations campaign.

It is hoped that ‘Live to Tell The Tale’ will encourage more fishermen to complete mandatory BIM safety survival training and wear their personal flotation device (PFD) lifejacket at all times when at sea. The new PFDs contain GPS tracking devices which, when activated, send a signal to the emergency services with the precise location of the device.

Supporting the launch, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney said it was a very effective campaign with a strong and hard-hitting message. ‘I hope that fishing families across the country will get behind it and encourage their loved ones to wear their Personal Flotation Devices when they head out on their boats to help ensure they return home safely.’

The campaign is looking to motivate and encourage fishermen to take part in survival training and wear their Personal Flotation Devices at all times while on board their fishing vessel. The campaign features hard-hitting advertisements that are designed to make fishermen think of the consequences of not wearing a PFD lifejacket.

Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) CEO and Clonakilty woman Tara McCarthy said the campaign is crucial to improving the survival rate of those working in the fishing industry and providing their families with peace of mind each time they take to the seas. ‘Fishing is an important industry in this country, directly employing over 3,500 people, and as the agency responsible for the provision of safety training, we are determined to make the sector as safe as possible. 

‘According to national figures, fishing is approximately 13 times more dangerous than construction, and 36 times more dangerous than general employment. Fishermen have to battle bad weather and hostile sea conditions which increase the risk of accidents.’

The Personal Flotation Device (PFD) with an integrated Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is a Global Positioning System (GPS)-enabled lifejacket available through BIM’s Safety Training programme. 

The PFD which activates in the water means fishermen can be found swiftly in the event of an accident and hopefully found alive. Traditional life jackets don’t use this technology meaning searches at sea can last days longer than is necessary adding to the anxiety felt by families of fishermen.

The safety courses are available through BIM’s national fisheries colleges in Castletownbere and on board BIM’s mobile Coastal Training Units that travel to every port in the country. A full schedule of courses is on www.bim.ie.

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