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Thematic report on accidents with pot fishing

The Accident Investigation Board Norway has compiled the results of the investigations of seven accidents which have occurred since 2010, where single-handed fishermen have perished after falling overboard during pot fishing. Among the accidents that the Accident Investigation Board has investigated, pot fishing stands out as the type of fishing that carries the greatest risk of falling overboard, and it is when the pots are being deployed these accidents occur.

The consequence of accidents where single-handed fishermen have been pulled overboard by fishing gear is often fatal because of hypothermia and drowning. In the seven accidents six of seven fishermen have been snagged in rope from the fishing gear and pulled overboard by the weight of the pots in the water and the vessels propulsion. Only one of the seven vessels investigated had physical barrier between the fishing gear and the fisherman.

If the fisherman become trapped in ropes and is at risk of being pulled overboard or has fallen overboard, there are several factors that must be present to increase the survival potential. This includes the use of buoyancy aid, rescue ladder and safety line as required by regulations. In the seven accidents investigated, five of seven fishermen lacked buoyancy aid and seven of seven fishermen lacked a safety line. Six out of seven vessels were equipped with rescue ladder, steps or platforms, but the fishermen involved were unable to take advantage of this.

Buoyancy aid, rescue ladder and safety line does not alone secure single-handed fishermen from falling overboard and rescue themselves back in the boat. It is imperative that the fisherman can quickly access a knife and cut himself loose from the fishing gear. In addition, without electronic emergency stop or equivalent the fisherman will not be able to access the boat if falling overboard when the boat is under propulsion. However, this is not mandatory equipment and none of the vessels involved had functioning emergency stop at the time of accident.

Safety recommendation

Safety recommendation MARINE no 2020/01T

The investigation of seven accidents with pot fishing in the period 2010-2018 where seven single-handed fishermen died, conclude that only two of the fishermen used buoyancy aid and non of the fishermen used safety line at the time of the accident. Pot fishing is implied with considerable risk for being pulled overboard by the fishing gear, and therefore it is important that the fishermen take advantage of existing safety equipment to enhance ability to survive.

The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommend the Directorate of fisheries and the Norwegian Maritime Authority, together with organisations that are involved in preventive maritime safety work, to look into witch measures can be applied to enhance the use of safety gear for single-handed pot fishermen.

Safety recommendation MARINE no 2020/02T

The investigation of seven accidents with pot fishing in the period 2010-2018 where seven single-handed fishermen died, conclude that mandatory buoyancy aid, rescue ladder or safety line will not alone secure the single-handed fishermen from being tangled in fishing gear and pulled overboard. Without electronic emergency stop on the propulsion the fishermen will not be able to re-enter the boat. Emergency stop will also reduce the risk of an unmanned vessel under way.

The Accident Investigation Board Norway recommend that the Norwegian Maritime Authority should consider implementing requirement for emergency stop on propulsion for fishing vessels under 15 metre.


Location Norwegian coastal waters
Occurrence date 02.04.2018
Accident category Personal injury
Area Norwegian Territorial Waters
Accident type Fatal Accident, Fall over board, Occupational accident
Vessel type Fishing Vessel

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