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Overweight fisherman given permission to sail again after backlash

A ban on overweight fishermen setting sail has been scrapped following an industry-wide outcry.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has ripped up rules that requirement crew members to get a health certificate before heading out onto the water, reports The Telegraph.

The law, which was introfuced in November, was labelled “ludicrous” by the industry. It would see trawlermen only allowed aboard if their Body Mass Index was under 35.

For the average 5ft 10in man, this would mean weight in at 17stone 6lbs or below, and for a 6ft man, just under 19 stone. A BMI of more than 30 is considered obese.

Ministers initially tried to say the ban was a health and safety measure. But, following a backlash, they have made smaller boats exempt from the rules.

Skippers had said the regular medical checks on crew would heap additional costs on businesses. They also said it would force fishermen out of industry – particularly those who were healthy but breached the limit.

Harper told The Telegraph: “This Government backs our fishing industry, which is why we have listened to fishing communities and are easing the burden on small-scale fishermen to make sure they can continue their work unhindered.

“Our fishing sector will be able to continue operating safely, protected by our world-leading safety standards while supporting the UK fishing industry that forms the backbone of so many coastal economies.”

The rules originated with the International Labour Organisation, a Geneva-based UN agency, before Britain agreed to adopt them, giving industry leaders a five-year phase-in period.

However, boats less than 10 metres long will no longer have to adhere to them. Only crew members who can prove they worked for four weeks or more on a UK-registered boat between November 2021 and November 2023 will be exempt.

While larger vessels, around a fifth of the British fishing fleet, will also not be covered by the exemption. The New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association, an industry group representing the skippers of small boats, had campaigned for the rules to be changed.

Its chief exectuive Jerry Percy had warned BMI was a “discredited” health measure. The technique, which is calculated using a person’s weight and height, has been criticised as inaccurate as it does not factor in factors like muscle mass.

SOURCE

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