Research Reveals Gaps in Aquaculture Industry Health & Safety

 An aquaculture worker farms fish in Vietnam.   Courtesy: VietnamPlus

An aquaculture worker farms fish in Vietnam.  Courtesy: VietnamPlus

At the International Fishers Safety and Health Conference on June 12, Professor Andrew Watterson of the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group at the University of Stirling presented the results of his research on the state of health & safety in the global aquaculture industry. Aquaculture refers to the rearing of aquatic animals or the cultivation of aquatic plants for food. Today the industry employs 18 million people worldwide.

Watterson's research revealed that many aquaculture workers work in "highly hazardous" conditions and are at high risk of occupational injury and disease. Other "considerable" consequences aquaculture workers face stem from factors including low wages, long hours, job insecurity, and poor welfare and social security. "Aquaculture occupational health and safety is frequently marginalized or lost by government, industry, and sometimes labor organizations," Watterson said. "This contrasts with the wider importance and funding given to production, cost, food safety, sustainability, and wider environmental issues within the sector."

"Many risks remain either neglected or unaddressed" by government, industry and even labor organizations due to gaps in knowledge and limited independent analysis of prevention and risk reduction strategies. However, many of these risks can be mitigated by conforming to international codes on occupational health and human rights, as well as by following "decent work" programs from the International Labour Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

"These programs, if linked to relevant ministries – such as labor, health and social security – may be able to contribute to progress," Watterson said.

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