Original publication: July 2018
Authors: Blomeyer & Sanz: Roderick Ackermann, Nicolò Franceschelli, Marga Sanz, George Maridis, Veronika Kubenova, Elsa Pereau
ProSea: Bopp van Dessel, Tim Haasnoot
Secoterg, France: Yvon Le Roy
FishFix: Lisa Borges
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2KeQ7P5
The focus of this study is the training and certification of fishers relating to health, safety, and sustainability on board. This study aims to compare the practices and standards for the training and certification of fishers in different Member States (MS), and it highlights the divergence between MS and the complexity and risks that this generates. The study also draws on the experience of the transport sector to mark the difference it has made in the maritime transport sector. While parts of the study include vocational training, the conclusions and recommendations deal exclusively with health and safety training and certification.
More specifically, the study considers:
- The situation and recent developments in the maritime transport sector and the EU fisheries sector;
- The distribution of legislative and regulatory competences at European Union and MS levels;
- Free movement of labour in the EU fishing industry;
- Training and education establishment and programmes, training paths, resources.
The findings and conclusions on these issues are informed by case studies covering 11 MS, as well as a case study on scientific observers working at sea.
Findings and conclusions
17 years have passed since the report on the Mutual Recognition of Certificates in the Sea Fishing Sector in Europe (the ‘Bénodet 2000’ report) predicted a likely increase in the movement of fishers between MS due to declining interest in the industry amongst young people in some MS. Many countries have joined the EU since then and there is now considerable movement of fishers, not only between MS, but also into the EU, for example from Asia and Africa. The Bénodet 2000 report pointed out the diverse and complex requirements of MS with regard to the basic safety training and certification for fishers, and it suggested that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) STCW-F 95 convention could serve as a reference for comparing requirements in different MS. Only six of the EU’s 21 coastal MS have ratified STCW‑F 95, requirements remain diverse and complicated, and in the absence of a common standard, the situation has inevitably become more complicated following the accession of more coastal states since 2000. This has safety implications, not only for fishers, but also for other users of EU waters. This situation is an obstacle to the free movement of workers and may be contributing to illegal working and worker exploitation.
Furthermore, only three coastal MS have ratified C188 International Labour Organisation (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention, 2007, and only seven have ratified SFV Protocol 93 (Torremolinos Protocol of 1993 Relating To The Torremolinos International Convention For The Safety of Fishing Vessels, 1977). Nine coastal MS have not ratified these or STCW-F 95.
Situation and recent developments in the maritime transport sector and the EU fisheries sector
Technological advances, such as improvements in ship design and navigation aids, have reduced the frequency and severity of shipping incidents considerably within the maritime transport sector. The reduction in technology failures has revealed the underlying level of influence of human error in accident causation. As a result, focus has shifted towards the ‘human element’ in order to further improve safety and environmental performance in the maritime transport sector.
Although fishers are also seafarers, maritime administrations frequently have difficulty in adequately addressing the safety aspects of the fishing industry, thereby excluding fisheries from the vast majority of provisions of international shipping conventions.
In contrast to the maritime transport sector, the fishing industry itself is highly diverse in terms of type and size of vessels. The diversity in fishing vessels and techniques complicates the development and spreading of training and education material specifically addressing safety and sustainability issues in fisheries.
There is a lack of a harmonised system of standards on training, certification and watchkeeping for fishers of the EU fishing fleet. This is different for the maritime transport sector. Thanks to international legislation and standardisation, ensured by International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW-2010), shipping is ahead of fishing with respect to safety/sustainability awareness, measures and performance.
The ratification rates of international conventions on safety at sea in fishing by EU MS are relatively low, especially compared to the ratification rates of international conventions for seafarers. The lack of a common standard for the training and certification of fishers in the EU is a safety risk, not only for fishers themselves, but also for other users of EU waters.
The distribution of legislative and regulatory competences at European Union and Member State levels
While stakeholder feedback indicates that there are limited legislative competences and powers relating to the training and certification of fishers at EU level, the shared competences between the EU and the Member States in the areas of internal market (art.4.2.a TFEU); fisheries (art. 4.2.d TFEU) and common safety (art. 4.2.k TFEU) mean there is room for manoeuvre at the European level. A 2011 Commission impact assessment suggests that this was a matter of interest to it at that time.
At MS level, commonly more than one minister has legislative competences. In general, there appears to be no overlap of competences, and clear division of responsibilities between different ministers and other bodies involved (e.g. inspection agencies). Inter-ministerial cooperation appears to be effective in those countries where more ministers are involved.
Nevertheless, in one of the case study countries, published reports point to the possibility of certain coordination challenges and gaps with regard to the protection of some groups of fishers.
Free movement of labour in the EU fishing industry
There appears to be significant movement of fishers between MS and into the EU, reportedly due to the diminishing interest amongst young people in some MS to enter the industry. Statutory safety training requirements for fishers are complicated and vary significantly between MS. This complexity makes it harder to comply with statutory requirements and it may be contributing to illegal labour, worker exploitation, and potentially also to human trafficking in the fishing sector. The current situation is an obstacle to the free movement of fishers and potentially involves a significant waste of time and effort on the part of authorities, fishing companies, and fishers.
Stakeholder feedback indicates that the possible adoption of a common standard on the training and certification of fishers would be a positive development, as it would facilitate the free movement of fishers, contribute to the development of a ‘level playing field’, and enhance the performance of the EU fishing fleet.
However, the adoption of STCW-F 95 as the common standard would be unlikely to eliminate the need for additional training and certification when moving between some MS with more demanding requirements. In principle, this is in line with the right to free movement since workers who are nationals of another Member State are not treated differently from national workers because of their nationality. Differing enforcement capacities between MS would also be likely to constrain the introduction of a genuinely common standard in practice.
There is limited awareness of the Bénodet 2000 report on the mutual recognition of certificates in the sea-fishing sector in Europe, and stakeholders who are aware of it rarely refer to it.
Training and education establishment and programmes, training paths, resources
Training and education establishments and programmes, training paths, and resources vary greatly per EU MS assessed. There is no clear, widely-adopted international/ EU regulatory framework on the training and education of fishers.
There is no up-to-date list describing all training and education institutions within the EU and the majority of institutions contacted for this study did not respond to requests for information.
Some EU MS have specific training and education programmes for fishers, while others have no specific training and education programmes for fishers in place. Training paths differ between MS, ranging from a father to son ‘learning by doing’ approach to formal, professional (higher) education and everything in between. The content of training and education programmes offered varies between MS and sometimes even within MS.
There appears to be sub-optimal utilisation of, and lack of awareness about, available EU funds for the training of fishers.
- There is a need to improve the attractiveness of the industry for young people in the EU by, for example by making it easier for fishers to move between fishing and other maritime work, and by developing professional fishing qualifications, that are recognised across the EU;
- There is a need not only for a common standard for the training and certification (safety) of fishers, but also for a common approach and methodology to ensure common application of any standard across the EU;
- Effective application of a common standard for the training and certification (safety) of fishers would require more uniform definition of vocational certificates for fishery vessel crews (navigational and fishing), in particular for skippers and other officers.
- STCW F is considered the most relevant standard, as it is the intended IMO global standard for the training and certification (safety) of fishers. However, STCW-F generally applies to vessels of over 24 metres only and there would still leave out approximately 90% of all European fishers. In the event that STCW-F is adopted by the EU, the EU should drive inclusion of smaller vessels in the STCW-F obligations.
- The introduction of a common standard will bring with it significant training and certification costs for fishers and/ or authorities in some MS. It may therefore be necessary to allocate funding to help meet the cost of training and certification, which in turn will facilitate effective application of the common standard.
- It may be necessary to support some MS with funding and capacity building to develop the necessary education and training and control systems and capacities.
- Opinions diverge on whether or not existing EU legislation already provides the necessary common standard for the training and certification of fishers (safety) of fishers. In the event that a new common standard is introduced (e.g. STCW-F), it will be important to ensure clarity, and avoid duplication of, or overlap with, existing EU legislation.
- Some MS currently have very limited, if any, requirements for the training and certification (safety) of fishers. In order to facilitate and encourage effective application of a common EU standard, it may be helpful to link safety training and certification with, for example, sustainability training.
- There is a need to enhance awareness of safety on board. This could be supported, through various measures and could target not only fishers, but also family members, and employers. AT EU level, the introduction of a focal point could support identification and dissemination of relevant research.
The situation of fisheries in Europe is highly complex. This study should be considered as a first step. More in-depth study is required, particularly on the following topics:
- Content and details of a safety and sustainability training standard (further development of STCW-F) which would be effective for all MS;
- Strategy and process to develop such a standard and have it accepted/ adopted;
- Strategy and process to implement the new standard in European fishing;
- What tool is needed to replace the Bénodet 2000 report on the mutual recognition of certificates in the sea fishing sector in Europe, and if/ how such a tool will facilitate the free movement of fishers within the EU, and enhance safety standards.
- The declining interest among young people to work in the sector, and the longer-term implications for the EU, with a view to developing policy to address this negative trend, which was noted in the Bénodet 2000 report almost two decades ago. Various reasons for this trend have been put forward, including low pay, particularly hard physical work, constraints on engaging in normal social life, lack of career prospects, and lack of access to social welfare.
- The issue of illegal labour in the sector, including exploitation of workers on fishing vessels. There is considerable movement of fishers between MS and into the EU, apparently driven by the declining interest amongst young people in the EU to work in the sector. The diversity and complexity of certification requirements and cross-validation processes may incentivise some operators to recruit fishers illegally. Conversely, it seems doubtful that fishers who are recruited illegally (e.g. to bypass immigration rules) will meet basic safety training and certification requirements. Both scenarios present safety risks, and fishers working illegally on EU fishing vessels are more vulnerable to exploitation.
 Européche, Cogeca “fisheries” and E.T.F. (December 2000), ‘Mutual Recognition of Certificates in the Sea Fishing Sector in Europe, Final Report, Study prepared for the Forum to be held on this subject at Bénodet (FR) 13 and 14 October 2000’, p9.
Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/617-484
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