A Paraparaumu Beach based international non-profit organisation is improving and empowering Bangladeshi fishing communities.

FISH Safety Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting safety in the fishing industry around the world, has launched re-FISH.

"The project is all about recycling, reconditioning, re-using and re-purposing fishing, safety and vessel gear and equipment that is no longer being used in more developed parts of the world and taking it to communities that really need it," FISH Safety Foundation chief executive Eric Holliday said.

The initiative came as a response to the foundation's first visit to Bangladesh in which it became clear that one of the key factors of safety, equipment, was missing.

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A fishing boat in Bangladesh.
A fishing boat in Bangladesh.

"Here in New Zealand we are particularly focusing on sourcing lifejackets, and other gear like first aid supplies, epirbs, radios, right down to tools, for fishers in Bangladesh.

"The need is massive.

"We've already delivered some equipment to Bangladesh, where we're working on another project, and have seen the difference this help makes.

"Beyond the immediate environmental benefits for Kiwis, ensuring that unused gear doesn't end up in the tip, or worse, the sea, there are added benefits to the Bangladeshi fishing community in terms of improving safety outcomes, empowering communities and helping to alleviate poverty."

Issuing wound care kits in Bangladesh.
Issuing wound care kits in Bangladesh.

Getting items delivered to countries in need wasn't always straightforward though.

"We're sitting with potentially a container of stuff in Australia and it's that import duty which they see as commercial stuff and we're struggling to say it's charitable stuff.

"There are so many facets to this.

"We had an organisation in Europe donate money to us so we put together some first aid kits and stuff, and got it shipped but were charged massively on import duty, which defeated the whole purpose of it."

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The foundation, comprising about 10 staff, is committed to providing relevant practical education, access to resources and promoting a positive safety culture in the world's most hazardous industry.

"We're working in the Caribbean, the Pacific, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia — we work everywhere except New Zealand.

"And our funding is sourced everywhere but New Zealand too.

"We work with governments, fishing associations, universities, and develop training material, advise on safety legislation interpretation and lots more."

Mr Holliday said fishing was the most dangerous industry in the world with the highest fatality rate.

A study in 1999 said fishing accounted for 24,000 deaths per year.

"That is still the accepted figure although we know anecdotally it's way more than that.

"The latest estimate is 32,000 deaths."

Fishing in Bangladesh.
Fishing in Bangladesh.

Moreover, 15 per cent of the world's protein was coming from seafood, he said.

"If you look at it from the foodchain safety side then it [reducing fatalities] becomes very important."

The foundation has proposed "setting up a global fishing accident reporting system so we can get some real statistics out there".

Mr Holliday, who was an engineer in the Merchant Navy, got involved in fishing safety about 25 years ago.

"The particular thing in that is the human factor side, the psychology of safety and that kind of thing.

"As an engineer the technical side is easy but what is fascinating is the human side.

"And I've always had this feeling that fishing is forgotten.

"From a purist safety professional side, the gaps in information, intervention and seeing the whole picture bothers me."

You can make a donation via www.re-fish.org or by emailing donations@re-fish.org.