Pubdate: Tues, 1 June 1999
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 1999
Author: Frank Urquhart


Trawler crews face random tests as industry promises to help police to crack
down on abuse

SCOTTISH fishing leaders yesterday vowed to rid the industry of the scourge
of drug abuse.

The first action in the campaign will see the industry join forces with
Grampian Police, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Grampian Health
Board to produce a special drugs information booklet which will be
distributed to every vessel in the Scottish fleet.

The booklet contains practical information on illegal drugs from heroin to
cannabis and what their effects are, advice to skippers on how to cope with
drug taking among their crews, and how to cope with drug-related emergencies
at sea.

The industry is also planning to commission a major two-year investigation
to identify the exact scale of drug abuse within the Scottish fleet. It
follows claims by local health workers that heroin abuse is already a
significant problem among fishing crews on the Buchan coast.

There is also the possibility that further inquiries will be made into
introducing random drug testing.

Hamish Morrison, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation,
said: "As long as the life of a single fisherman is at hazard from this kind
of anti-social behaviour then we have a responsibility to deal with it - and
that is what we are doing."

He also said that the industry was determined to eradicate the scourge of
drug taking in the longer term and that the booklet was only the first stage
in a wide-ranging action plan.

Mr Morrison added: "What we have to do immediately is to inform, advise and
assist people who are at sea who may come into contact with these sorts of

"Fishing skippers are good at catching fish. What they are not are doctors,
lawyers or moralists and we must not put them in that position. The issue in
this booklet is about fitness for work and the extent to which that may or
may not be affected by the taking of mind-altering drugs."

Mr Morrison added: "The fishing industry has had a very difficult press on
the subject of drugs because it is the kind of drugs story that runs quite
well. But we have no reason, at either end of the spectrum to believe that
drug taking is any more prevalent or less prevalent in our industry than it
is in any other.

"What is important is that, in fishing, the group safety on board fishing
vessel depends crucially on every individual in the vessel performing to
their best all the time.

"Clearly, if there is anyone on board a fishing vessel whose performance is
impaired by reason of the influence of any mind-altering substance, be it
drugs, alcohol or whatever, then the dangers in a fishing vessel from that
are very much greater than they would be in comparable situations ashore."

George MacRae, the chairman of the Fishing Industry Safety and Health
Consortium, said, "There is no part of society which is free from health and
drug and alcohol-related problems. But there is no record of any accident,
serious accident or fatality at sea directly, or indirectly, related to drug
abuse. That is not a statement of complacency - that is a statement of

But he added: "There is no debate about the hazards on a fishing vessel of
having someone on board who is unfit through alcohol or drugs.

"Safety cannot be compromised by the actions of any individual, and we hope
this booklet will go a long way to minimising the dangers."

The industry's initiative was welcomed by Dr Sandy Wisely, the Fraserburgh
general practioner who first alerted the authorities to the scale of illegal
drug misuse, particularly heroin, among Buchan-based fishing crews.

He said: "It is a step in the right direction. I am delighted that they are
now past the denial stage where they were initially about a year ago, when
they behaved just like parents when they are first informed that their kids
are getting into drug abuse.

"The industry leaders went through a process of denial. It is good to see
that they are beginning to come through that stage."

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