North Devon and Torridge’s fleet of fishermen will be getting new life jackets after securing £16,000 of EU funding.

A demonstration of the new lifejacket fitting.A demonstration of the new lifejacket fitting.

The two district councils have successfully applied for European Maritime and Fisheries Funding (EMFF).

The grant has been used to purchase 50 life jackets with built in Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs).

The jackets will be distributed to the local fishing fleet and it is hoped the new design, developed with the help of representatives from the fishing industry, will encourage fishermen to wear safety equipment as part of their routine activity at sea.

John Balls, chairman of the North Devon Fishermen's Association and skipper of the fishing vessel Aurora, said:

"This project was initiated following the acquisition by South Devon fishermen of similar life jackets with built in EPIRB's.

"Due to the complex nature of the EU application process, we sought assistance from Torridge Councillor Phil Hackett who has been a stalwart supporter of the North Devon fishing industry.

"He then ensured a successful application was submitted and also secured other contributions from North Devon and Torridge Councils towards the overall costs.

"We would like to thank Councillor Hackett and other past and present councillors for their contributions to this cause and the positive outcome."

The EPIRBs can be activated if a fisherman goes overboard, and can be tracked by rescue services on a designated frequency which pinpoints their position.

The scheme kicked off with a fitting and training programme at Appledore RNLI station on Wednesday.

Cllr Hackett, Torridge District Council's lead member for environmental health and community safety, said: "We very much hope that the newly designed life jackets and tailored distribution will raise awareness of safety issues at sea and the equipment adopted as a regular part of the kit fishermen wear while carrying out their work.

"Fishing can be a hazardous profession and so anything we can do to reduce the risk of harm is clearly a good thing, not only for those wearing the equipment, but also for their families and loved ones."

North Devon Council leader David Worden added: "The new design of life jacket was developed with consultation with people and organisations actively working in this sector of the local economy.

"As a result we hope that the design that has emerged will be more readily worn to protect lives and reduce accidents."