Confidential Human Factors Incident Reporting Programme
Category: Commercial Fishing
Report TitleLone fisher falls overboard
During the early evening, a single-handed inshore fishing vessel under 10m was working pots just outside the harbour’s mouth. The fisher lost their balance and fell overboard, and could not self-rescue. Although they wore their flotation device, they could not summon help because their radio was still on the boat. They were in the water for over an hour before they were spotted and recovered by a passing sailing vessel.
Although they were extremely hypothermic, they made a full recovery. Their fishing vessel was recovered the following day.
In this scenario, the fisher was fortunate to be spotted by a passing sailing vessel. Wearing a flotation device was crucial because it reduced the effort required to remain afloat so that they could conserve energy.
When fishing single-handed, CHIRP advises that a ladder is rigged to aid self-rescue or a floating messenger line attached to a lifebuoy streamed from the stern and next to the ladder. Fishers are also strongly encouraged to wear a waterproof hand-held VHF radio or (even better) a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), which can alert the emergency services if you fall in.
Local practices – Rig a ladder or another means of getting back on board if you fall over the side.
Communication – Carrying a means of summoning emergency assistance on your person can save your life. In some regions, fishers operate a regular radio check-in call with someone ashore to alert the authorities if they fail to check in when due.
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