Debate over trawler drugs culture
By BBC News – Monday, 23 September, 2002
Copyright: BBC News
The deaths of two Devon fishermen from drugs overdoses have led to concerns in the industry about the use of illegal drugs on vessels.
The issue has been raised in the port of Brixham, where the deaths occured, but there is disagreement about the extent of the problem.
Kevin Fisher, 40, and 27-year-old David Crouch both died of heroin abuse within the past year.
The trawler agents who act for the port’s boats said the use of illegal drugs is no worse than in any other industry.
A 2001 Coastguard-supported report looked at the health of those in the catching sector of the fishing industry.
It said drug taking was “recorded as no higher than other surveys of the mainland population”.
However, many fishermen have privately told the BBC that drug abuse is a common occurrence on local boats, but that most people are afraid to speak about it.
One retired skipper in Brixham said: “There are more drugs exchanged in the town than at Boots the Chemists. I told the local police but they said they were after the big boys.”
But Rick Smith from Brixham Trawler Agents does not believe drug abuse is prevalent among crews.
He said: “The concern was that the drugs were actually being taken to sea on the boats, and that the drugs were being taken on the boats.
“But I can assure you as an ex-owner and ex-skipper with 30 years experience, I certainly have not found a drug culture on the boats at sea.
“Obviously, ashore is a different matter.”
Fishermen and merchant seafarers have, by far, the most dangerous jobs in Britain, according to experts.
A study by researchers at Oxford University earlier this year found people working on the sea are up to 50 times more likely to die while working, compared with those in other jobs.