Helping young fishermen to avoid drugs and drink is vital for the future of the fishing industry, an international Vatican seafarers congress has been told.
Speaking on World Fisheries Day, Father Dirk Demaeght, fisheries national chaplain in Belgium, told delegates at Apostleship of the Sea's 23rd international conference that many young fishermen in Belgium quit because of drugs.
“Living and working at sea, away from home and friends, and so many other human factors, provoke discomfort and stress. Drink and drugs are a temporary means to escape. The question is how long they will last and how long they are able to ensure the safety of the crew,” he said.
He added that a campaign has been running in Belgium to promote drug-free ships. “We have created a roadmap where the medical assistance is very important. We do everything so that the fisherman can continue to sail during the treatment, because we don’t have any standby crews.”
Father Demaeght, an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Transport, explained that there are 520 active fishermen working on beam trawlers along the Belgian coast, mainly in Zeebrugge, Ostemde and Nieuwpoort. He also told delegates that a guidebook for relatives of Belgian fishermen missing or killed at sea has been produced. “On one hand this guidebook serves as a support for the surviving relatives, covering all steps, from the reporting of the misfortune to the legal transfers at the notary.
“On the other hand it is a document to work with for the different rescue services. In recent times we have started an update of the roadmap taking into account the new international rules and methods in the rescue operations.”