‘Keeping our fishers safe at sea’; Coroner’s report highlights need for improved vessel monitoring

Seafood Industry Australia (SIA), the national peak body representing Australia’s commercial fishing industry, has welcomed the release of the inquest into the deaths associated with the FV Dianne and FV Cassandra.

“This is a step in the right direction to ensuring tragedies like the FV Dianne and the FV Cassandra do not happen again,” SIA CEO Jane Lovell said.

“First and foremost, our thoughts are with Ruben McDornan and the family and friends of Adam Hoffman, Ben Leahy, Adam Bidner, Zac Feeney, Chris Sammut and Eli Tonks – the crew of the Dianne, and the family and friends of Matt Roberts and David Chivers of the FV Cassandra.

“Following the FV Dianne tragedy, Joel Feeney and Jackie Perry, the brother and sister of Zac Feeney, worked tirelessly to find a way vessel monitoring systems (VMS) could be used as an early safety alert system.  I commend them for their approach in trying to find a solution that would prevent other fishers being lost at sea.

“It is therefore heartening to read that the Coroner has recommended use of VMS for safety, not just for fisheries management.

“Our great hope is that our industry, our regulators and our governments can come together to find a way forward on this issue.

“The inquest also recommended a number of safety improvements such as personal locator beacons and ensuring vessel doors can be opened against water pressure.

“Safety is one of SIA’s and the entire commercial fishing industry’s top priorities. We will campaign on behalf of our fishers until they get the financial focus and assistance they desperately need.

“Our industry is working hard to improve safety. For example, SIA has asked the government for financial support of $5 million over four years to be used as a dollar-for-dollar matched contribution toward stability tests for higher risk fishing vessels.

“SIA also supports the SeSAFE initiative, a project which aims to raise awareness and improve safety in the fishing and aquaculture industry through simple training modules that deliver essential safety training such as man overboard and how to evacuate a ship. This project is an important example of the industry and the Federal Government uniting to keep our fishers safe at sea.

“SIA will continue to promote discussion and understanding of the issues associated with safety in the workplace, as well as advocating for practical ways to make our workplace safer.”



Inquest recommendations


– That the fishing industry be encouraged to place emergency ‘grab bags’ of basic equipment to assist crew to escape capsized vessels.

– That self-illuminating LED strip-lighting and emergency exit signs be installed in all existing vessels within two years and after that period, it become a mandated requirement in all commercial fishing vessels

– That the industry be encouraged to secure all bulky items in a wheelhouse with straps or bolts to stop movement in a capsizing event

– That fishermen be encouraged to wear inflatable vests fitted with personal locator beacons when working on the decks or at the helm

– That authorities and industry review the use of quad gear used for trawling in the Sandy Straits

– That authorities investigate ways to ensure doors on vessels can be opened against water pressure

– That authorities ensure all vessels have up to date plans of the layout and any modifications with copies kept in a secure place on land and by regulatory authorities

– That fishing safety management systems include safe methods for retrieving snagged nets

– That the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries immediately implement the sharing of the ‘failure to poll’ function of the Vessel Management System to allow the Queensland Police to be immediately notified via text message and email of any failure to poll by a vessel