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The occupation of trawl fishing and the medical aid available to the Grimsby deep sea fisherman
  1. S. R. W. Moore2
  1. aThe Health Department, Kingston upon Hull


    Moore, S. R. W. (1969).Brit. J. industr. Med.,26, 1-24. The occupation of trawl fishing and the medical aid available to the Grimsby deep sea fisherman. The mortality of fishermen is twice that of coalminers. Because of the method of fishing the mortality of the trawlerman is probably higher. Outside the industry little is known about the occupation of trawl fishing. Its size, the number of men employed, and the number and distribution of trawlers are therefore described, with particular reference to the port of Grimsby. As near, middle, and deep water trawlers sail from Grimsby, its industry gives a good representation of conditions in the industry as a whole. The port and the fishing grounds are described.

    The composition of the trawler crew, their conditions of work, accommodation, and remuneration are explained. A description is given of the trawl apparatus, fishing operations, and the hazards involved, and extracts from the writer's diary of a fishing voyage are appended.

    The United Kingdom has ratified the Accommodation of Crews (Fishermen) Convention 1966 of the International Labour Organisation, and an informal survey of a modern trawler fleet showed that it fell short of the requirements of this Convention. Accommodation is confined and the crew live and work in close proximity and in conditions of physical discomfort.

    Trawlermen work for long hours under conditions which would not be tolerated by the shore worker. The method of payment is such that trawlermen may take unnecessary risks. Earnings depend on team work so that illness and injury are often not reported with consequent deterioration of the condition.

    Physical fatigue and lack of sleep contribute to an increased accident rate. It is therefore recommended that more men per trawler should be employed to allow shorter working hours. As the skipper and mate are paid wholly on a share basis, the remainder of the crew receiving, in addition, a basic wage, it `pays' the trawlermen to take risks. A different method of payment, not dependent on the yield of the voyage, is therefore recommended.

    The medical aid available to trawlermen is described and is usually by radio link with shore or a ship with a doctor on board. Although the skipper has some training in first aid and may use The Ship Captain's Medical Guide and the contents of the medicine chest, it is shown that most skippers prefer the radio link or to put into port for medical assistance. In 1963, 165 Grimsby trawlermen were put ashore.

    The medical aid given to 120 trawlermen by the Icelandic patrol of the Fishery Protection Squadron is described. Diagnosis and treatment by radio-telephone was difficult and not always successful and medical officers boarded trawlers whenever possible.

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    • 2 Now Medical Officer of Health and Principal School Medical Officer, City of York.

    • 1 The material in this paper formed part of an M.D. thesis submitted to Queen's University, Belfast.