A new set of guidelines, adopted at a joint meeting of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), will improve the medical examination process of fishers.

Work on fishing vessels is strenuous and includes catching and processing fish in a challenging environment. Fishers work and live at sea for extended periods, even years, in close quarters, often far from access to immediate medical care. Many work on fishing vessels that fly a flag of countries other than their home country. All need to undergo appropriate medical examinations to ensure they are healthy and fit for their work, which yields one of the world’s most important and nutritious food sources.

The new guidelines will support medical practitioners and authorities in conducting examinations, in line with the ILO’s Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188), which requires fishers to hold a medical certificate attesting to their fitness. The IMO will introduce a similar requirement through its upcoming revised Code of the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel.

The guidelines refer to the relevant international legal instruments. They provide guidance for competent authorities and for persons recognized by competent authorities to conduct medical examinations and to issue medical certificates. They set out vision and heating standards, physical capability requirements, fitness criteria for medication use and common medical conditions, formats for recording medical examinations and medical certificates. They also address matters such as the frequency and conduct of examinations, the right to privacy, and appeals procedures if a certificate is denied.