Fishermen are being encouraged to make a break from tradition that may save their own lives.
The first ever life jacket designed specifically with fishermen in mind has gone on the market and Whitby RNLI coxswain Mike Russell has managed to raise funds for more than 40 of the devices.
Mike said: “If we get called out it’s 99 per cent sure that I’m going to know who it is, and so I would much rather they were wearing a life jacket.”
These will be distributed free of charge to commercial fishermen on a first-come, first-served basis
However, Mike said he fears fishermen will be reluctant to break from tradition and start wearing the device.
He said: “Fishermen won’t normally wear life jackets. There’s peer pressure but also, there has never been a life jacket that would do the job.
“Fishing is manual work and obviously life jackets have been large and on your front, they just weren’t fit for purpose.”
In comparison, the new design of jackets are much smaller and just fit around the neck. They are also entirely washable and can fit in a conventional washing machine.
“It’s a bit like a seat belt,” added Mike. “As you wear them all the time it becomes so familiar that you don’t even realise you are doing it.”
Therefore in exchange for the jackets, Mike is asking for each recipient to give just an hour of their time for a seminar on the operation and maintenance of the life jacket.
To be eligible for a life jacket, applicants must be commercially -licenced fishermen, currently active in the harbour.
Each life jacket costs over £100 each and so local businesses have been asked to make a donation to help fund the purchase of the units.
Among those to donate money were Locker’s Fish, Whitby Fishermen’s Club, the Normanby Trust, Whitby Mission and Seafarer’s Centre and Whitby Seafoods, and Mike said he would like to thank everyone who contributed.
The Mullion Compact 150N CE Personal Flotation Device is manufactured in Gweedore, County Donegal, Ireland.
It was launched onto the market in 2011 and the new Mark 3 version has been chosen by industry experts and fishermen as the ideal solution for safety, comfort, durability and design.
The MCA, RNLI and SeaFish have been key supporters of the equipment.
If you are interested in applying for a jacket, or for more details, contact Mike Russell on (01947) 602216 or 07768590857.