South Scotland

Dalbeattie fisherman's bereaved partner in life jacket plea

Megan Willdig and baby Ava Image copyright Other
Image caption Megan Willdig has been unable to put Steven Robertson's name on their daughter Ava's birth certificate

The partner of a Scottish fisherman who was lost at sea has appealed for all workers to wear a life jacket.

Steven Robertson, 25, of Dalbeattie, fell from the scallop dredger St Amant in Caernarfon Bay in January 2012.

The boat's condition was criticised in a report but he was not wearing a life jacket and his body was never found.

His partner Megan Willdig, 21, also of Dalbeattie, was pregnant with their first child at the time and has urged others to use the safety devices.

Without a body she has not been able to register Mr Robertson's death, hold a funeral or put his name on their daughter Ava's birth certificate.

Ms Willdig is backing a campaign to get all fishermen to wear a life jacket.

She said: "We will never know if wearing a life jacket would have saved Steven's life, but we do know that if he was wearing a life jacket they would have been much more likely to have found his body.

"At first no body being found gives you hope - and you keep holding on to the dream that he is going to be found safe and well somewhere.

"But as time goes on, no body just makes the grief even worse."

She said the problem was that the failure to find a body meant there was "no closure".

"You can't say goodbye at a proper funeral," she said.

"You don't have a death certificate so you can't do the administrative things you need to do like close bank accounts.

"And, in my case, I couldn't even put Steven's name on Ava's birth certificate."

She said she thought a lot of fisherman did not believe a life jacket would save them if they fell overboard.

Image copyright Other
Image caption TV presenter Monty Halls is leading the campaign to get fishermen to wear life jackets

"But they don't think about how wearing a life jacket might make things much easier for their families if the worst does happen," she added.

Research by industry body Seafish shows that almost 100 fishermen have lost their lives in the last decade.

The latest figures from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch also showed there were 260 accidents involving UK fishermen in 2012, with 44 serious injuries and six deaths.

A survey of 100 fishermen by Seafish found more than half agreed their job was dangerous, but only a quarter regularly wore a life jacket at sea.

The coastguard, RNLI, the Fishermen's Mission and the Fishing Industry Safety Group are working to provide life jackets to every commercial fisherman in the UK.

So far, about 7,000 have been distributed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of England and Wales, with the initiative continuing throughout this year.

Broadcaster Monty Halls, who has presented sea-based TV shows including Great Ocean Adventures and Great Escapes, is fronting the life jacket campaign.

Safety concerns

He said: "Fishermen are our last, true, hunter-gatherers and the profession comes with inherent dangers.

"The research that Seafish conducted highlighted that UK fishermen know their work can be dangerous and they even acknowledged that their families worry about them whilst they're working.

"Yet a large number are not wearing the appropriate safety equipment.

"If you were in a car, you would wear a seatbelt - the same should go when you're at sea."

Simon Potten, head of safety and training at Seafish, said its purpose was to help secure a "sustainable and profitable future for the UK seafood industry".

He added: "The safety and welfare of its primary producers, the fishermen, is fundamental to this.

"Fishing safety is a concern and fatalities are unacceptable.

"A personal floatation device can save a life and it is disappointing that such a high number of fishermen put themselves in additional danger by not using them."

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