UN agency begins process to enhance safety, working conditions for fishers

15 June 2004

The United Nations labour agency today took the first significant step towards strengthening work standards for most of the estimated 35 million people employed by the fishing industry around the world.

A committee of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on fishing, meeting in Geneva during the organization’s annual conference, completed preliminary discussions about introducing new instruments that would revise and enhance seven existing standards for protecting fishers.

If the proposed standards are adopted next year after further debate, they will extend the coverage to more than 90 per cent of the world’s fishers – compared to the roughly 10 per cent who are protected now.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said the proposed revisions will enable millions of fishers to earn their living – collectively, fishing is estimated to contribute $50 billion a year to the world economy – in decent, safe conditions.

Most fishers live in the developing world, with more than four out of every five people employed coming from Asia.

Fishing is regarded as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world, with ILO studies showing that the fatality rates for fishing is higher in some countries than those of police or fire-fighters. In some countries, the death rate is estimated to be between 150 and 180 per 100,000 workers.

The revised standards would extend coverage by including the self-employed and those fishers paid on the share of the catch. It would also toughen health and safety provisions and take account of fishers working both on the open seas and on small vessels in coastal waters.


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