Safety and Working Conditions

Do FADs induce new risks for fisherfolk working on small units in the islands of the Caribbean?

The improvement of safety and working conditions is performed through the analysis of:

  • Accidents and near-misses and through the research of their causes
  • The observation of fisherfolk when working at sea

Such work is performed through studying statistics and sea reports, conducting investigation with fisherfolk, collaborating with administrative sea bodies or doctors and services dealing with people working at sea, and through boarding fishing vessels.

The result of that analysis leads to issuing recommendations meant for fisherfolk, shipyards, equipment suppliers, trainers or administrative bodies.


Given the accidents, disappearances at sea and health problems recorded in fisherfolk, it is recommended to:

  • Set a systematic accident recording system and a questionnaire associated enabling the description of the causes and the elaboration of statistics on accidents and damages to health related to this particular professional activity
  • Equip the fishing vessels with communication tools (VHF, safety beacon) and positioning tools. Professionals should be trained to use these devices and to communicate with their families in order to ease rescue procedures.

The analysis of the working and safety conditions related to anchored FAD fishing activities lead to the following recommendations:

  • The use of adequate vessels to set the FADs or compliance with the protocol (transport of the device by several units…); the use of adequate gear (anchoring system fragmented into sandbags, for example) adapted to the type of vessel used
  • Improve the line hauling processes, in particular for large catches, and to search for processes of automation (jigging)
  • Equip fisherfolk with Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)
  • Equip the vessels and landing points with assistance devices for handling heavy loads (large catches).

Main results

According to its report and over three years (2010 to 2012), CROSS Antilles-Guyane, intervened on 2306 cases involving 5425 people among which 591 fisherfolk (11%) within the area comprised between Antigua and the Grenadines and French Guyana. Over those same three years 34 fisherfolk died or were lost at sea. In 2013, an additional 14 fisherfolk died or were lost at sea.

 Among the work-related accidents recorded for anchored FAD fishing activities, causes mainly relate to the handling of FAD ballast or treatment of the captures. Furthermore, the human body is strained by the vibrations and shocks induced by high-speed navigation on strong seas. The back and knees appear to be particularly affected.

 A reflection must be conducted with architects, shipyards and equipment suppliers regarding the improvement of fishing vessels by taking into account the following elements:

  • ·         Operating consoles (*)
  • ·         Protection of the console by a cabin (*)
  • ·         Handrails and fixed support for seamen during the trips (*)
  • ·         Lifting devices
  • ·         Line hauling and automation (jigging)
  • ·         Electronic equipment (VHF, safety beacon, GPS…)
  • ·         Sea water pump and handle for the post-capture treatment of the catches
  • ·         Device to maintain the catches during the extraction of the spinal marrow
  • ·         Central ice box allowing seamen to easily move forward and backward
  • ·         Storage of fuel containers (when the tank is not integrated)
  • ·         Stowage compartments
  • ·         Work surface for activities such as the preparation of baits
  • ·         Reduction of the vibrations, shocks and exposure of seamen to the sun and sea spray
  • ·         Light signaling and lighting of the deck
  • ·         Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) adapted to anchored FAD fishing

 Fisherfolk and trainers must be sensitized, regarding the different tasks related to anchored FAD fishing activities, to the need to:

  • ·         Build FADs

o   Follow the instructions for handling chemicals used when manufacturing buoys

  • ·         Set anchored FADs

o   Respect the regulatory beaconing of the device and declare it (see declaration form on CARAFAD website)

o   Choose a vessel stable enough or adapt the protocols and equipment to small units

o   Take into account the weather conditions and carry the FAD with several vessels

  • ·         Maintain the FADs

o   Clean the FAD without applying tension to the buoy rope

o   Prefer « kit » aggregators (hanging under the buoy rather than fixed to the FAD’s main buoy rope)

  • ·         Move the vessel

o   Take into account the uneasiness related to:

             §  Preparing the lines or baits

             §  The treatment of the fish

             §  Etc.

o   Operate at a reasonable speed and take into account seamen’s exposure on the bow to the shocks against waves entailing trauma

o   Reduce the distance between the FADs so as to limit the trips’ duration and associated tiredness

  • ·         Fishing

o   Reduce the hardness of certain tasks (aides to winding/unwinding of the lines, automation of the jigging technique)

o   Use lifting equipment when catching large fish

o   Use auxiliaries and adapt the gestures and postures for the handling of heavy loads

  • ·         Treatment of the catches

o   Sharpen the blades used to cut the fish

o   Wear a metal mesh glove to protect the hand holding the fish

o   Carry on board a first aid kit in case of a cut

  • ·         Survival and rescue at sea

o   Keep on board the safety equipment required by regulating bodies (water, vest, flares, sail, paddles…)

o   Complete the safety equipment with a distress beacon, a VHF device, a GPS device

o   Inform your close relatives about the activity and fishing venue so that they can help rescue teams

  • ·         Individual protection

o   Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

o   Wear gloves and boots

o   Use anti-skid mats on the vessel’s floor

o   Do not use the lumbar belt as a protective tool

Works to implement

  • ·         Set data collection tools on sea accidents
  • ·         Sensitize fisherfolk in particular to communication issues useful to efficient rescue interventions
  • ·         Launch an awareness campaign on PPE (Personal Protective Equipment: PFD, gloves, boots…)


Andro, M., Chauvin C., Dorval P. et Le Roy Y. (1994). Sécurité et conditions de travail à bord des navires de pêche des iles de la Guadeloupe. Rapport Université de Bretagne Occidentale – Institut Universitaire de technologie Lorient, Centre de Génie Industriel Guidel-Plages, 221 p.

Dorval P. et Le Roy Y. (1994). Sécurité et conditions de travail à bord des embarcations de pêche de la Guadeloupe. Rapport Université de Bretagne Occidentale – Institut Universitaire de technologie Lorient, Centre de Génie Industriel Guidel-Plages, 138 p.

FAO/OIT/OMI. 2013. Mesures de sécurité recommandées pour les navires de pêche pontés d'une longueur inférieure à 12 mètres et les navires de pêche non pontés. Rome, FAO. 263 pp.

Gudmundsson A. « Pratiques de sécurité liées à la stabilité des petits navires de pêche ». FAO Document technique sur les pêches et l'aquaculture n° 517. Rome, FAO. 54 p.

IMP (1994). Sécurité et conditions de travail à bord des embarcations de pêche des Antilles françaises. Film MP4, version française, 25 mn.

IMP (2013). Safety and Working Conditions on board small-scale fishing vessels in the Lesser Antilles. Film MP4, English version, 25 minutes.