Safety beacons signal extra protection for north Norfolk fishermen

Cromer crab fishermen and chairman of FLAG, John Lee, pictured with his new safety beacon.PHOTO: ANT

Cromer crab fishermen and chairman of FLAG, John Lee, pictured with his new safety beacon.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Lifesaving equipment worth £7,000 has been handed to fishermen heading into the North Sea to help them guard against the day to day dangers of their traditional trade.

More than 40 handheld personal locator beacons have been distributed to fishermen across north Norfolk through Flag – the Fisheries Local Action Group – to protect them while out on the water.

The beacons are designed to be used in emergencies, but are particularly aimed at providing a lifeline for fishermen should they go overboard.

Once activated, they send out a distress signal through GPS so rescue teams can easily locate an individual in the water. They are also fitted with a light, which flashes to help during rescues in the dark.

The beacons were bought through a joint initiative between the North Norfolk Fishermen's Society and Flag, which is working to protect the traditional trade.

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John Lee, Cromer fisherman and Flag chairman, was among those to receive a beacon, and thought they provided reassurance for those working at sea.

He said: 'The majority of us work single-handed nowadays, so it's more dangerous.

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'A fisherman went in last year – he was in for half an hour.

'As it turned out it was a happy ending – he was fine and is going back to sea.

'Had it been later or earlier in the year it could have been a different outcome – and if he'd had a beacon on him then we would have got to him a bit quicker.

'It can be the difference between life and death.'

Mr Lee said the society had decided to purchase manually activated beacons as automatic ones – triggered once they become wet – would not work well in small fishing boats, such as those used in Cromer.

'Because of the nature of the boats we work in, we do get wet quite often,' he added.

John Jonas, a lifetime fisherman whose family has been working the seas off Cromer for generations, welcomed the introduction of the beacons.

The 63-year-old added: 'They're a good idea. It can get hairy. We all work single- handed now and if you go over the side there's no one there to pick you up.'

Fishermen applied to buy the beacons through Flag, which secured EU cash that contributed towards the majority of their cost, with the remainder of the bill being picked up by the society.

Mr Lee said: 'If they save one life it's money well spent.'

All society members have been equipped with a beacon and Flag organisers are now expecting more fishermen's associations within the region to make funding applications for similar equipment in the coming months.

The Flag scheme aims to provide a sustainable future for fishermen across a 66 mile stretch of coastline from Brancaster to Hemsby, and keep the industry afloat by boosting infrastructure, marketing and education.

Since it launched in 2011 with £2.4m of European funding it has invested in several schemes across the coast, including illuminated buoys for Brancaster Harbour.

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