COMMERCIAL fishing has become Britain's most dangerous occupation with six fishermen dying in the space of just one year.

New accident investigation data shows that five of the six deaths occurred in Scottish waters.

And in an annual report, the Marine Accident and Investigation Branch said more needs to be done done in order to improve the safety record of the UK fishing industry.

Captain Andrew Moll, chief inspector of marine accidents, said one in four of the branch's work in 2018 involved investigating fatal fishing vessel accidents.

"My predecessor regularly raised concerns about fishing safety, and it would be remiss of me not to do the same..," he said.

If commercial fishing was considered when the Health and Safety Executive posted figures for the most dangerous profession in the UK, it would have come top, said Capt Moll. Instead the HSE declared it was the recycling industry.


Capt Moll added: Had they done so [included commercial fishing], commercial fishing would have been shown to be the most dangerous occupation, by a factor of 10. There is no silver bullet that will alter this picture, but small fishing vessel stability and lifejacket wear stand out as areas where improvements could significantly enhance safety."

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The revelation comes two weeks after campaigners raised concerns that the number of workplace deaths had rocketed by over 70% in 2018 in Scotland, fuelled by a rise in deaths in agriculture, forestry and fishing.

The first of the two fishing deaths came in January 18, when the prawn trawler Nancy Glen capsized "rapidly" as it turned to starboard in darkness and sank in Loch Fyne, Argyll and Bute.

The MAIB found in May that it overturned after one of its nets became fouled with mud and seabed debris during a turning manoeuvre.

READ MORE: Watchdog: changes to Nancy Glen fishing boat 'significantly' increased capsize risk

Duncan MacDougall, 46, and Przemek Krawczyk, 38, who lived in Tarbert, were on board when the trawler sank and lost their lives.

A third crew member was pulled from the water by the crew of a passing boat and survived.

A fund-raising campaign with associated video (above) was launched to provide support for the families.

The following month Mark Elder, 26, from Thurso was killed after becoming entangled in fishing gear and dragged overboard whilst shooting creels on the North Star off Cape Wrath.

On August 7, Duncan Matheson, 63, was working as a deckhand on the Fram of Shieldaig in Loch Torridon when he died after he slipped or stumbled while manoeuvring the small tender alongside a moored fishing boat. An MAIB investigation found he was not wearing a lifejacket and that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time and that that had been a contributory factor in the accident.

Seven days later, William Ironside, 52, died on the fishing trawler Sunbeam in Fraserburgh harbour after being overcome by gas which starved him of oxygen while working in a refrigerated saltwater tank, used for storing fish onboard.


A subsequent MAIB probe found that Mr Ironside, who was from the Aberdeenshire town was one of several men who fell ill on the vessel.

Investigators said it was a "tragic accident" which nearly resulted in multiple fatalities, and recommended risk assessments for work in the tanks.

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It is thought he had entered the tank to sweep out residual seawater as part of preparations for a deep clean.

Three of the boat's crew, who climbed inside to try to resuscitate him, also became dizzy, confused and short of breath.

Capt Moll said: "In 2018, tragically, another six fishermen lost their lives: three due to their vessels capsizing; two from falling overboard; and one from a noxious atmosphere in a fish hold.

"Since 2010, an average of 6.44 fishermen have lost their lives each year, and the figures bear out that the fatality rate has been fairly steady. When considered against deaths on the roads, these figures seem small. However, when adjusted to show deaths per 100,000 workers, the figures tell a different story."

In May, Scottish fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing announced the creation of a new group to advise on health and safety on Scottish commercial fishing vessels.

He said at the time: "Over the years, there have been too many serious accidents and sadly too many lives lost at sea. Injuries and fatalities take a terrible toll, most obviously on families but also on our coastal communities. I want to try and change that."