Prawn boss calls on industry to lift its game to avoid more deaths, injuries at sea

The owner of the largest fleet in Australia’s most valuable prawn fishery has called on industry to tackle its safety problems amid revelations fishing is about 25 times more dangerous to work in than mining and construction.

Arthur Raptis said a “culture of acceptance” had led many to believe a series of fatal and other serious accidents in recent years was “just part of fishing”.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said five people are killed on fishing boats every year.

In the northern prawn fishery, a young deckhand died this season after being bitten by a sea snake and a coronial inquest last year into the electrocution of a man five years ago on a Gulf trawler found the company involved failed to provide a safe workplace.

Mr Raptis said his industry’s track record was “less than average” and unless attitudes changed, unnecessary deaths and serious injuries would continue to happen.

Safety issues such as fatigue management were complex and difficult but that was no excuse for companies, regulators and fisheries managers not to deal with it.

“There are only 52 boats left in the fishery so there’s only a handful of operators.

“We’re all very, very close and often we know the staff on all the other vessels, not just our own, and it hurts … it really does affect all of us when we see people being killed or getting hurt.”