Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, fishing is an activity which takes place in a naturally hostile environment, and is clearly associated with risk-taking. Risks are inherent in almost every decision made by a skipper or individual fishermen: on when and where to go fishing, what gear to use, when and where to land the catch, and so on. The level of marine accidents is unacceptably high. In the UK, for example, the fatality rate among fishermen is 20 times higher than that for workers in manufacturing industry. Fishermen work in an unpredictable environment and are confronted with daily challenges from bad weather, fires on board, loss of power, poor vessel construction, poor communications and sometimes out-of-date navigation equipment. Casualties at sea have, unfortunately, become an integral part of the fishing profession. But the accident toll could undoubtedly be reduced if the fishing industry and individual fishermen, national authorities, the EU and international organisations faced this vital issue with enough thought, consideration, political will and economic means. I welcome this initiative and I congratulate the rapporteur and hope that the Commission will follow up the recommendations in this report with positive action to improve safety and to reduce the number of accidents. It is also important that safety be one of the key priorities in the forthcoming review of the CFP. It is essential that we do not create a management regime which forces fishermen to go to sea when the weather is bad, for example, in complying with days-at-sea restrictions or attempting to land fish in a designated port cut off by bad weather. High prices in periods of bad weather may also drive fishermen working under quota systems out on risky fishing trips, which may be the only way to obtain the best prices for what they land against their quotas. Such risks are preventable if safety forms an integral part of fisheries management. I welcome the recent developments in Scotland, where changes in fishermen's safety training mean that an age exemption for older catchers will be a thing of the past and that basic sea survival, first aid and survival training will soon be mandatory for all fishermen. Finally, although a gradual ban on vessels more than 20 years old can be supported, the latter part of paragraph 4 in the report says, and I quote: ". . . except for those proven to be in perfect condition". It would be better if that section read: ". . . except for those that have passed annual safety tests". It is more practical to use that language than to open up a variable definition of perfect conditions. I therefore urge Members to support Amendment No 6.

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