Working at sea can be tough mentally and physically. Some medical conditions and poor health as well as fatigue, stress and being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, can contribute to accidents. It can affect your judgment and decision-making. It’s important that you look after your health and wellbeing so that you can stay safe at sea and get home to your loved ones.

“Things that I wouldn’t usually give a second thought were playing on my mind. I was at the stage where I needed to speak with someone”

Nigel Taylor, Fisherman, Cornwall.

Benefits of looking after your physical and mental health

  • You’ll make safe and sensible decisions and take fewer risks that could lead to accidents.
  • You’ll be fit enough to do your job. Rest and a good diet can make your reaction times quicker and your mind sharper.
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work is against the law. If you are involved in an incident, you could be prosecuted. It could also affect insurance payouts.
  • Under international law, medical certificates will be required for anyone working on a fishing vessel from November 2023. This is to ensure you are fit enough to ensure the physical and mental requirements of working at sea.

Top tips

  • Make use of the local health services available to the fishing industry. Check what’s in your area. You’ll find some in the Useful Links below.
  • Talk to your crew about the dangers of alcohol and drugs when fishing. Make it clear there is a zero-tolerance policy but offer your support for those who might need it.
  • Consider any alcohol or drugs still in your system before you go to sea. If you wouldn’t drive, don’t fish.
  • Read your insurance policy and check what would happen if you tested positive for drugs or alcohol following an incident. Many might not pay out.
  • Make sure everyone on the vessel gets enough rest on shifts. Fatigue leads to mistakes that could be fatal.

Do you have a medical certificate yet?

By the end of November 2023, international law will require all fishermen on UK fishing vessels to have a certificate of medical fitness.

Ensuring you are medically fit helps to keep you and anyone working with you safe, avoiding a predictable problem at work due to underlying medical conditions. For most fishermen (those on vessels under 24m), the medical certificate you need is an ML5, which is a form you can print from the internet and take to your GP or another doctor. 


What to do

What you say

Nigel Taylor, a fisherman in Cornwall, shares his experience of his mental health suffering and the benefits of having someone to talk to.

Alan Dwan, Skipper in Cornwall, talks about the importance of seeking wellbeing support, whether it be to do with your work or family life.