On the morning of 2nd May 2021, the skipper of the single-handed creel fishing vessel Saint Peter was shooting creels east of Torness Point, Scotland. There were no witnesses to the accident that led to his death, but it is likely that one of the skipper’s legs became entangled in a bight of rope while attempting to unsnag a string of creels and was pulled overboard. The skipper was wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), which was fully inflated and kept him afloat, but once in the water he was unable to raise an alarm or reboard his vessel.
A concerned relative and a friend of the skipper searched for and found the Saint Peter unmanned. They contacted the coastguard, and the ensuing search-and-rescue operation located the skipper, who was recovered from the water by helicopter. He was unresponsive and a short while later was declared deceased.
The key safety issues identified were:
- Single-handed fishing is known to be high-risk and fishers are advised to follow industry guidelines to minimise the chance of being pulled overboard.
- Emergency measures such as the rigging of a man-overboard ladder and the wearing of a personal locator beacon (PLB) improve the chance of reboarding a vessel and sending a distress message.
- Following well-prepared risk assessments and realistic safety procedures offers single-handed fishers protection from the hazards they encounter at sea.