Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Guidelines for Fishermen

The following guidelines for fishermen are based on recommendations elaborated by HELCOM CHEMU (Annex 3 of the final report of the HELCOM CHEMU, 1995).

New guidelines for fishermen are planned to be developed by the CHEMSEA project.


Do not anchor or fish with bottom tackle in the risk areas A, B and C. Fishing is prohibited in certain parts of the areas at risk as shown by markings on nautical charts.


Mustard gas, sternutators, lachrymators and suffocating agents have been dumped in areas A and B. Nerve agents and suffocating agents have been dumped in area C. Mustard gas and possibly other types of chemical munitions have been dumped in areas D and E. However, the majority of findings has been mustard gas.


When fishing with bottom tackle or nets permanently placed on the sea bed in areas A, B and C, it is a requirement that vessels are equipped with protective or first-aid equipment. In area C the requirement for first-aid equipment also includes atropine/oxime (e.g. obidoxim or oxime) injectors for nerve agents protection.

In areas D and E chemical munitions were dumped at great depths in sunken vessels. For this reason there are no requirements for vessels fishing in this area to be equipped with protective and first-aid equipment

Additional Information

Preventive measures and first aid

After World War II large amounts of chemical munitions were dumped in the Baltic Sea.

Simply touching chemical agents or inhaling of the vapours is very dangerous, and fishermen should therefore carefully follow the instructions in this leaflet in the event of chemical munitions being caught.
Chemical munitions may contain explosives and should therefore be treated with great care.

What to do?

1. Read this leaflet before fishing in the risk areas, and pay special attention to the sections on first aid.

2. Be alert for abnormal conditions when bringing in the haul, for example
– whether tackle or fish smell unusual – whether there is a stinging sensation in the eyes – whether there are any corroded containers or suspicious clay-like lumps.

3. If there is any suspicion of chemical bombs in the tackle when bringing in the haul, the tackle should be cut away and the position marked. The nearest national contact point or the national contact point of a fishing vessel shall be informed accordingly. The list of national contact points is contained in the summary chart of dumping and risk areas.

4. Contact the national contact point if chemical munition is caught and give all the information you can, including your own opinion about the situation. The national contact point can be contacted via the coastal radio.

5. Anybody who has come into contact with chemical agents must start decontaminating immediately, even if no adverse effects are felt at the start.

6. Crew who have to work in a contaminated area of the vessel must use clean protective gloves and breathing masks. Do not spread the contaminants. Be careful when going to the toilet.

7. Close doors and hatches to the contaminated area, and stop all ventilation systems. If possible, let the wind carry fumes and contaminants away from the area with people. Close the hatch to the hold and leave all fish on deck together with the tackle.

8. Fishing vessels which have come into contact with chemical agents must not bring the fish ashore, including roe, livers and everything else, until the catch has been checked and released by a relevant national authority. Fish which has been contaminated by chemical agents is unsuitable for human consumption and as animal feed.

9. The vessel and tackle must not be used until they have been decontaminated and approved by a relevant national authority.

10. All injuries caused by finds of chemical warfare agents must be reported to a relevant national authority.

Chemical munitions can occur in the form of bombs or clay-like lumps and in artillery shells

The nature of the objects caught varies a great deal. They can be bombs or parts of bombs. The metal shell of the bombs is usually corroded through. Shells which are relatively intact have also been found. Bombs which are caught are in one of three stages of decomposition.

Type 1: The outer shell of the bomb is only partly corroded, but the metal shell can easily collapse, which would allow the warfare agent to escape.

Type 2: The outer shell of the bomb is almost completely corroded away. This type of bomb usually consists of a yellow shell of partly converted warfare agent and/or adhesive substance. Liquid yellow or brown chemicals are often found in the centre of the bomb. The bomb falls apart in small and large pieces very easily, which can open sections with active warfare agent.

Type 3: Yellow or brown lumps of varying sizes (up till 100 kg), many with a clay-like consistency. Most of the lump is converted warfare agent and/or adhesive substance, and there is normally no liquid phase. In the case of cracking, sections with active agents will be exposed. Several lumps of varying sizes are often caught at the same time, as the trawl may have broken a large lump into smaller pieces.

All the above ammunition types may contain explosives and should therefore be treated with great caution, but so far no explosions have occurred.

First aid is emergency aid

First aid must be given quickly and correctly in order to limit the extent of damage and injuries. It is therefore necessary for everyone on board to know where the first-aid equipment is kept.

Medical help is necessary at the latest when the vessel arrive in port, and in some cases it may be expedient to contact a doctor on the radio or, in serious cases, to get medical assistance by helicopter as soon as possible.

First-aid equipment for chemical warfare agents

At least the following first-aid equipment for such agents must be on board vessels fishing in the areas at risk:

l. One “gas box” for every three crew members.
The “gas box” should contain the following:
– five tongue spatulas – four packets of 10 g containing absorbent cotton – three 100 ml bottles containing either 5 % solution of dichloramine in dichloroethane or 5 % solution of 1,3-dichloro-5,5-dimethylhydantoine in dichloroethane. The bottles should be marked clearly “Gas-decontamination liquid” and the composition stated. – three powder sprays containing 50 g of fine pulverized compound of calcium of lime and magnesium oxide, adjusted to a content of 25 % active chlorine. The spray should be marked clearly “Anti-gas powder” and the composition stated. – one 75 ml bottle containing a solution of copper sulphate. The bottle should be marked “Anti-phosphorus liquid” and imprinted with instructions “approved by the appropriate authority” – one copy of the National Leaflet on “Fisheries and Warfare Agents – Preventive measures and first aid”.

2. Ten atropine/oxime automatic injectors for every three crew members on vessels fishing in the risk area C and using bottom tackle or tackle which is permanently fixed on the seabed.
– Breathing masks (full-face mask with filter, speech membrane and panoramic screen) and spare filters should be available on board, e.g. one mask and one spare filter, for every crew member. Breathing masks and filters should be appropriately approved. – One pair of long isobutylene/isoprene rubber gloves per crew member.
Information about approved breathing masks and filters as well as on dealers who sell such equipment and isobutylene/isoprene rubber gloves can be obtained from the appropriate national authority.

In case of mustard gas poisoning


Mustard gas penetrates very easily into the body via the skin, mucous membranes and respiratory tract.

An unusual property is that the symptoms do not appear immediately!

Often the injuries do not appear until several hours after the exposure!

It is therefore of uttermost importance that decontamination starts immediately after contact with mustard gas!

Do not rub your eyes, even if they are stinging.

If there is the least sign of a contamination, the following precautions must be taken:

1. Avoid touching tackle and haul. Do not spread the contaminants on board.

2. Eye-cleaning

WARNING: Eyes should only be cleaned, if they are stinging. If there is no stinging in the eyes, the skin should be cleaned immediately.

a) Wash the eye out with plenty of water (e.g. from flushing hose) for at least 15 minutes. Washing out should be done from the root of the nose outwards as shown in the drawing:

b) Close the eye and carefully clean the surrounding skin area with soap and water.

c) Never rub your eyes, even if they are stinging or itching. Do not use eye ointment and do not dress the eye.

WARNING: Gas cleaning liquid and anti-gas powder must not be used on the eyes.

3. Skin-cleaning where the skin is contaminated by grease-like substance

a) Carefully remove work clothing and leave it where it is.

b) Remove the grease-like substance from the skin immediately by scraping with a knife or similar instrument. Be careful not to rub the substances into the skin or spread it.

c) Clean the contaminated skin using cotton wool moistened with gas cleaning liquid.

d) Rub anti-gas powder into the affected skin area as soon as possible.

e) Wash the skin thoroughly with soap and water.

f) Carefully dry the skin with a clean towel and rub gas powder into the affected skin area again.

4. Skin cleaning in other cases

a) Quickly rub anti-gas powder onto hands, arms and face.

b) Remove work clothing and leave where it is.

c) Once again rub anti-gas powder onto the affected areas and wash it off again after half an hour. Be careful not to spread the contamination, e.g. when you go to the toilet.

5. Any blisters must not be punctured. They should only be covered with a clean dressing.

6. Move the vessel into a position which allows the wind to carry any gas fumes away from the affected people on board. Close doors and hatches to the contaminated area.

7. Contact the national contact point via the coastal radio station to get information on what to do next. Medical assistance may be required.

8. Make the vessel ready. If this cannot be done without coming into contact with the contaminated area, the crew must use safety equipment.

In case of nerve agent poisoning

Nerve agent poisoning has not yet occurred during fishing in the Baltic Sea, but it needs to be treated very quickly if it does occur.

If nerve agent poisoning is suspected or in case of severe difficulty in breathing and/or cramps, atropine/oxime should be injected into the thigh immediately – through the person’s work clothing, if necessary.

When going to the aid of an injured person, you must wear a protective breathing mask and gloves. Otherwise follow the same procedure as described for mustard gas.

Unless the symptoms of poisoning disappear within 10 minutes, another injection of atropine/oxime in the thigh should be given. No more than three injections may be given without medical advice. A good sign of the atropine having worked is dryness in the mouth.

If atropine/oxime is taken without the person being poisoned by nerve agent, it can cause blurred vision and palpitations. Instructions for use of atropine/oxime can be found on the injector itself.

In case of suffocating agent poisoning

Suffocating agents affect the respiratory system. In case of suffocating-agent poisoning, the poisoned person must not smoke, eat or drink, and must stay calm.

In case of phosphorus poisoning

Note: PHOSPHORUS is not a warfare agent and can thus also be found outside the dumping sites. Extinguish any burning phosphorus particles by keeping the affected area under water. Scrape off the particles using a knife. Then keep the affected area covered with a wet cloth until it can be bathed in anti-phosphorus liquid. Finish by applying a dry dressing.

General Precautions

Decontaminating a fishing vessel after contamination with chemical agents must only be carried out by a relevant national authority, never by the fishing vessel’s crew. Caught chemical munitions and contaminated hauls must not be moved or touched by the crew. If chemical munitions are caught or this is suspected, work must cease immediately, and only work which is necessary to ensure the safe sailing of the vessel may be carried out in the area of the vessel which is contaminated with warfare agents. During such work, the crew must wear isobutylene/isoprene rubber gloves and breathing masks. This safety equipment must not be used with a view to decontaminate the vessel, etc., but only for the most necessary work in order to ensure the safe sailing of the vessel. The safety equipment can also be used. to go for the assistance of injured people.