Fat fishermen face ban from working at sea unless they get their BMI below 35 due to ‘ludicrous’ new medical rules
- From November fishermen need a doctor-approved medical certificate to work
- Government argues these changes will ensure fishermen do not risk an accident
- Fishermen are now rushing to the gym, dieting and seeking legal advice
Fishermen with a body mass index of 35 could be banned from working at sea in new ‘ludicrous’ medical rules.
From November onwards fishermen will need a doctor-approved medical certificate to work displaying their BMI.
The Government has argued these changes will ensure fishermen do not risk an accident at sea.
But skippers have argued that no evidence has been provided by officials to suggest their weight puts their safety at risk.
Fishermen are now rushing to the gym, dieting and seeking legal advice to save their livelihoods.
Plymouth fisherman, 53-year-old Tony Heinemann, pictured, is one of the many unlucky skippers whose future is made uncertain by the new rules. The Royal Navy veteran spends 16 hours a day alone on his seven-metre vessel, Gloria Rose, and says that accidents relating to fisherman’s health are incredibly rare
The rules from the International Labour Organisation’s Work in Fishing Convention were adopted by the UK in 2018 but the Government allowed a five-year window for workers to get the required medical certificates.
But now the fishing industry has called for an urgent meeting over the issue and is considering legal action over the potentially discriminatory rules.
BMI is based on height and weight with a healthy one considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9.
Anything above this is considered overweight with a BMI of 40 pushing into the obese category.
Jerry Percy, 68, the chief executive of the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association which represents around 80 per cent of the UK fleet, said the certificates are ‘more than worrying’.
Particularly for the ageing workforce where the average age is over 50 and which could end careers that have spanned decades.
The industry conducted a survey which received 600 replies, an abnormal amount according to Mr Percy, because people are worried that ‘out of the blue, the MCA are saying if you fail this you are finished.’
Mr Percy told the Telegraph: ‘BMI has been discredited a number of times. A few older guys might be carrying more weight than they should, aren’t we all.’
The Government has argued these changes will ensure fishermen do not risk an accident at sea. But skippers have argued that no evidence has been provided by officials to suggest their weight puts their safety at risk
The chief executive added the idea the rules were protecting fishermen by preventing them from having an accident at sea was farcical.
He said: ‘There might be a delay in getting someone to the hospital but then try getting a bloody ambulance.’
Plymouth fisherman, 53-year-old Tony Heinemann, who spends 16 hours a day alone on his seven-metre vessel, Gloria Rose, said that accidents relating to fisherman’s health are incredibly rare.
The Royal Navy veteran of 22 years insisted that people had to be fit to spend hours a day on a boat because they wouldn’t last in the industry if they were not.
But Mr Heinemann is one of the many unlucky skippers whose future is made uncertain by the new rules.
He is 6ft and 20 stone and has a BMI of 37 which is now considered over the limit to work at sea.
Heinemann has only been issued a 12-month permit because of his weight – which did not take into account his height.
The fisherman spoke to an assessor on the phone and because his GP had ‘ticked some boxes’ the decision was made he was not fit enough to work out at sea.
Mr Heinmann said: ‘You can’t ask for a second opinion, their word is it. They are playing with people’s livelihoods. A lot of people haven’t bothered to go to the doctor yet as they are at their wit’s end and scared to be told they are unfit to fish.’
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said: ‘By getting a certificate, fishermen have the reassurance that they are medically fit enough to do their world without causing a risk to themselves or others.
‘We are supporting and preparing fishermen in the lead-up to this requirement.’
The MCA added fishermen could potentially continue through a ‘grandfather rights’ policy which recognises there would have to be a legitimate reason to disqualify a worker due to the changes if they had been in their job for a long time.
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