Researching the subject of travel safety revealed an oxymoron since travel, by its very nature, is not completely safe. Traveling anglers compound the equation by adding elements of danger not often encountered by less adventurous souls, such as remote locations, stormy seas, boat failure, proximity to sharp teeth, hooks and gaffs, as well as a lack of safety planning by local operators. Today, the international political scene has become more unstable in some areas, and there are still places in the world where piracy, terrorism, kidnappings and violent conflict take place on a broad scale. Nothing is completely safe, but you can greatly reduce the level of risk by improving personal travel habits and selecting fishing destinations and operators that are relatively stable and incorporate security planning in their daily operations.
Personally, I have fished in 18 countries with great success - but not without some adversity. Aside from my many memorable fishing experiences, I have also been shipwrecked, robbed, bruised and battered in rough seas and inlets, snagged with hooks, cut by sharp fish teeth, sickened by bad food and water, stranded in remote areas and had equipment stolen or broken. None of this misfortune occurred at home.
Nowadays, I probably preach as much about safety as I do fishing because people are not asking the right questions about their travel arrangements. For example, anglers should evaluate a fishing operator beyond its ability to provide state-of-the-art rods and reels or a comfortable swimming pool. All boats need to provide reliable communication among the entire fleet as well as with shore. Crews should check in with the lodge on a regular basis and have a fixed return time, even if it means breaking off a fish. Every boat should carry all the basic safety gear from PFDs to EPIRBs. Little things like easy access to an anchor can prevent you from drifting onto rocks or reefs and keep you safe until repairs are made or the props cleared. Generally speaking, well-established fishing resorts and charter operations follow all of these safety practices.
Captains and crews need to know the waters they fish, including every boiler rock and navigational hazard, and keep the vessel in proper working condition. During one trip to Australia, I got put on a replacement boat with a captain who was not familiar with the area, and we ended up running aground on the Great Barrier Reef. We probably wouldn't have survived if not for the aluminum hull that bent but did not break.
The cockpit should be clean and uncluttered, with all gaffs properly stowed. Make sure anglers using either stand-up gear or the chair are fitted properly and have an emergency cutoff or release system. Children should not be harnessed to the rod. Bare feet on deck may be cool, but you are just waiting to get a toe smashed, punctured or broken after a slip and fall. Wear sticky-soled shoes, and keep the blood and slime off the deck. It's also a good idea to stay out of tuna towers in rough seas or when navigating inlets.